Major Powers Call for Nuclear Talks With Iran Within Weeks

02 September 2009

The reactor building (L) dominates the nuclear power plant in Bushehr, Iran (File)
The reactor building (L) dominates the nuclear power plant in Bushehr, Iran (File)
Major world powers meeting on Wednesday in Germany have urged Iran to return to negotiations over its nuclear program before the U.N. General Assembly opens its new session in New York later this month. Iran's top nuclear negotiator said earlier this week that Tehran has new proposals to ease concerns about its nuclear intentions.

U.S. officials are not calling it a deadline. But they say that if Iran has new proposals that would revive the nuclear dialogue, it should agree to a meeting with the five permanent U.N. Security Council member countries and Germany before the new General Assembly begins debate on September 23.

The major powers, the so-called P-5+1, presented Iran last April with a revised package of economic and other incentives for Tehran to end its uranium enrichment program and return to talks on the future of its nuclear program.

On the eve of a meeting of senior diplomats of the P-5+1 in Frankfurt on Wednesday, Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said Tehran has a revised set of nuclear proposals and that it is ready to reengage with the six powers.

State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters here the four hour Frankfurt meeting of the P-5+1 political directors included discussion of the Jalili remarks and that the participants stressed that a negotiated solution remains open to Tehran.

"With reference to Dr. Jalili's statement this week that Iran is ready to resume talks, they stressed that Iran should respond to the offer of talks in April by agreeing to meet before the U.N. General Assembly meeting. They underlined the right of Iran to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, but that Iran should be aware of the urgent need to restore confidence in the exclusively-peaceful nature of its nuclear program through full cooperation with the international community," the spokesman said.

President Barack Obama has given Iran until the end of this month to take up the six-power incentives offer or face wider international sanctions - including, officials say, possible measures that would target gasoline imports on which Iran is dependent.

Administration officials say they are unsure whether the Jalili remarks herald a policy change by Iran or are merely a gambit to try to blunt international support for new sanctions in advance of the U.N. meeting.

Nonetheless, the State Department says it is ready to review any new Iranian proposal "seriously" and with "mutual respect".

While Iran insists that its nuclear program is peaceful, the United States and its European allies say Tehran is seeking to build nuclear weapons. Those suspicions were reinforced by an International Atomic Energy Agency report last week that said Iran has been evasive about alleged military aspects of its program.