Iran reportedly ready to hold talks with West

Israeli official calls Iranian nuclear negotiator saying Teheran has prepared revised package of proposals for West "brinkmanship."

Jalili 248.88 (photo credit: )
Jalili 248.88
(photo credit: )
Teheran's top nuclear negotiator said his country is ready to hold talks with world powers to ease fears over its nuclear activities and has prepared a revised package of proposals for Western countries, state TV reported on Tuesday. Despite the suggestion of possible international cooperation, the Iranian parliament sent a defiant message to the world by supporting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's nomination of Gen. Ahmad Vahidi as defense minister. Vahidi is under an international arrest warrant for the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Argentina that killed 85 people. Nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili told reporters of the country's new proposals a day before a meeting in Germany of the six countries trying to address concerns about Iran's nuclear program - the US, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany (G5+1). "Iran has prepared to present its revised package of proposals... and is ready to hold talks with world powers... in order to ease common concerns in the international arena," state television quoted Jalili as telling reporters. In Jerusalem, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Iran must be judged by what it does, not what it says. He pointed out that an International Atomic Energy Agency report issued on Friday showed that while the Islamic republic had promised to cooperate with the nuclear watchdog agency and its supervisors, it had in fact hid important elements of its nuclear program from the international community. Likewise, he said, "picking a terrorist as defense minister does not exactly signal a spirit of cooperation with the international community." Another senior Israeli diplomatic official said the Iranians were doing little more than engaging in "brinkmanship," and that it had been clear they would signal an interest in negotiations just before the G5+1 meeting in a bid to buy time and push off sanctions for another three months. Israel's position was that "crippling sanctions" should be applied now, regardless of whether the Iranians agreed to negotiate or not, the official said. The US has given Teheran until the end of the month to take up an offer of nuclear talks with the six world powers and enjoy trade incentives should it suspend uranium enrichment activities. If not, Iran could face harsher sanctions. Previously, Teheran said its new proposals deal with political and economic issues as well as security and international affairs, but did not say how it would address Western concerns that its nuclear program is a cover to build atomic weapons. The US and its European allies want to draw Iran back into negotiations over its nuclear program. At the G-8 summit in Italy in July, President Barack Obama said there was a September "time frame" for Iran to respond to offers to discuss its nuclear program. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council in addition to Germany offered the Islamic republic a modified package of economic incentives in June of last year in return for suspending its uranium enrichment activities - or else face harsher sanctions. Iran has repeatedly vowed it will never suspend enrichment work, but said the incentives package has some "common ground" with Teheran's own proposals for a resolution to the standoff. Senior US officials have speculated that the turmoil in Iran following the disputed June presidential election could distract its senior leaders from diplomacy over the country's nuclear program. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has supported Ahmadinejad during the crisis, but the pro-reform opposition continues to decry his reelection as fraudulent. Khamenei's attempts to end the unrest have been complicated by conservatives who have joined the opposition in criticizing abuse against protesters and activists detained after the election. That anger has spilled over into the conservative-dominated parliament, where Ahmadinejad faces a difficult battle in getting lawmakers to approve his proposed cabinet ministers. Lawmakers from both sides have accused Ahmadinejad of choosing many nominees who lack the necessary experience and are simply unquestioning loyalists. But the president received a welcome show of support on Tuesday when parliament praised his nomination of Vahidi as defense minister. Vahidi is wanted by Argentina in the bombing of the AMIA Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, and his nomination has drawn an outcry from the South American country, Israel and Jewish groups. But Iranian lawmakers hailed him as a hero with cries of "Death to Israel" as he addressed the chamber on Tuesday. One reformist made a dramatic gesture by proclaiming to other legislators that he would drop his initial opposition to Vahidi. "Because of the Zionist regime's ominous stance against Vahidi, I am not only foregoing my opposition, but will vote for him," state TV quoted Hadi Qavami as saying. The widespread support raises the likelihood Vahidi will be confirmed as defense chief when parliament votes on the entire cabinet list on Wednesday. Vahidi is one of five prominent Iranians sought by Argentina in the bombing, which killed 85 people. He was the commander of a special unit of the Revolutionary Guards known as the Quds Force at the time of the attack. Iran has denied that Vahidi was involved in the attack. But Interpol said in 2007 it would help Argentina arrest Vahidi and the four other Iranians wanted in connection with the bombing.