Six world pow­ers hope to press Iran back to nu­clear talks

The Pak Banker - - 6international -

GENEVA: Six world pow­ers are due to hold their first talks with Iran in more than a year on Mon­day, hop­ing the meet­ing will lead to new ne­go­ti­a­tions over a nu­clear pro­gram the West be­lieves is aimed at mak­ing atom bombs.

On the eve of the meet­ing in Geneva, Iran an­nounced what it called a ma­jor step for­ward in its nu­clear work, sig­nal­ing it is not about to back down in a long-run­ning bat­tle over what it in­sists are peace­ful plans for en­ergy pro­duc­tion. The six pow­ers-Bri­tain, China, France, Ger­many, Rus­sia and the United Statesdo not ex­pect a ma­jor break­through dur­ing the Dec 6-7 dis­cus­sions. Di­plo­mats say they would view as a sign of progress an agree­ment to meet again for more sub­stan­tial talks, per­haps early next year.

Western pow­ers want Iran to sus­pend ura­nium en­rich­ment ac­tiv­ity, which can pro­duce fuel for nu­clear power re­ac­tors or pro­vide ma­te­rial for bombs if re­fined to a higher de­gree.

How­ever, Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad has said this key is­sue will not be dis­cussed in Geneva. Be­fore the talks, U.S. Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil spokesman Mike Ham­mer said Washington and its al­lies were look­ing to see if Iran would en­ter into dis­cus­sions "with the se­ri­ous­ness of pur­pose re­quired to be­gin to ad­dress in­ter­na­tional con­cerns with its nu­clear pro­gram."

Asked upon his ar­rival in Geneva whether he was op­ti­mistic about the meet­ing, Ira­nian nu­clear negotiator Saeed Jalili said: "Ev­ery­thing de­pends on the other party's at­ti­tude."

The West has tight­ened sanc­tions on Iran in re­cent months, and Western di­plo­mats say these are hurt­ing Iran's oil-de­pen­dent econ­omy, which Tehran de­nies.

The United States has warned of more pres­sure and iso­la­tion if Tehran con­tin­ues its ura­nium en­rich­ment ac­tiv­i­ties. Washington says all op­tions, in­clud­ing mil­i­tary, re­main on the ta­ble and Iran's arch en­emy Is­rael has also not ruled out a mil­i­tary strike if diplo­matic ef­forts fail.

Iran's hard­line rulers, seek­ing to rally na­tion­al­ist sup­port and dis­tract at­ten­tion from eco­nomic woes, re­main de­fi­ant. On Sun­day, Iran's nu­clear en­ergy chief Ali Ak­bar Salehi said Iran would use do­mes­ti­cally pro­duced ura­nium con­cen­trates, known as yel­low­cake, for the first time at a key nu­clear fa­cil­ity, cut­ting re­liance on im­ports of the in­gre­di­ent for nu­clear fuel.

The tim­ing of the an­nounce­ment ap­peared aimed at show­ing Tehran's de­ter­mi­na­tion to pur­sue its nu­clear plans be­fore talks with the pow­ers, whose ne­go­ti­at­ing team will be headed by Euro­pean Union for­eign pol­icy chief Cather­ine Ash­ton.

Ham­mer said the an­nounce­ment was not un­ex­pected since Iran has been try­ing to de­velop its own ura­nium pro­gram for years. But he said it called fur­ther into ques­tion Iran's in­ten­tions.

Salehi said Tehran would be tak­ing part in the ne­go­ti­a­tions "with strength and power" and in­sisted the talks were for the ben­e­fit of the other coun­tries, to al­low them to find a way out of the po­lit­i­cal deadlock they had cre­ated by pres­sur­ing Iran.

Last week's killing of an Ira­nian nu­clear sci­en­tist in Tehran, which Iran has blamed on Western in­tel­li­gence ser­vices keen to im­pede its nu­clear ad­vances, could cloud the at­mos­phere for di­a­logue in Geneva. -Reuters

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