Turkey says Tehran ready for nuclear talks

Davutoglu says a military strike on Iran would be "a disaster"; diplomat denies Iran has responded to letter on nuclear talks.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu 390 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Osman Orsal )
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu 390 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Osman Orsal )
WASHINGTON - Iran has agreed to resume talks on its nuclear program, Turkey's foreign minister said on Friday, but a diplomat from one of the countries seeking a diplomatic solution saw no sign of fresh talks.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters he had recently been to Tehran and sought to encourage Iran to revive talks with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany.
"They agreed," he said, stressing Turkey's preference for a diplomatic solution to address questions about Iran's nuclear program, which the West suspects is a cover to develop an atomic bomb. Iran says it is for purely peaceful power generation.
However, the diplomat from a country within the group of major powers said it has yet to receive an Iranian response to a letter from European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, a key demand by the major powers for resuming talks.
"What we are asking of them is relatively straightforward. We need them to make absolutely clear that among the agenda items we are going to talk about ... is their nuclear program and they need to convey that in an official and clear way," said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"We need a demonstration of seriousness," the diplomat said, adding that there was no sign yet that the Iranians were prepared to resume talks. Analysts consider that a remote possibility before Iran's parliamentary elections on March 2.
Davutoglu also repeated Turkey's opposition to any military strike against Iran.
There has been speculation for months that Israel might launch such an attack and Israeli officials have openly said that time may be running out for air strikes to destroy the Iranian nuclear program.
Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat
Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat
"[A] military strike is a disaster. It should not be an option, especially at this historic turning point in our region," Davutoglu said at a Washington think tank. "We will never, never endorse any military strike."
He suggested that a negotiated outcome could be based on previous ideas under which Iran would give up some of its enriched uranium and would, in return, receive fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes.
"The same framework could be used for [a] fuel exchange," Davutoglu said. "Or there could be a new deal saying to Iran, 'OK, we will provide you fuel -- 20 percent enriched uranium -- but you will stop'" enriching to 20 percent.
Uranium enrichment is a process that can provide fuel for power plans or, if carried out to a much higher degree, can yield fissile material for nuclear weapons.
The group of major powers is worried that by producing nearly 20 percent enriched uranium, Iran has come closer to mastering the technology to obtain fissile material for bombs.