Iran sends mixed signals on n-talks

Iran sends mixed signals on n-talks

Foreign minister says no preconditions,n-group chief hints at compromise


In the diplomatic shadowboxing ahead of a planned resumption of nuclear talks between global powers and Iran,a senior official in Tehran was quoted on Monday as hinting at what seemed to be a modest compromise to partially meet some Western concerns about the country’s uranium enrichment programme.

But another high-ranking figure,Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi,was quoted as saying that Iran would not accept preconditions for the discussions.

“Setting conditions before the meeting means drawing conclusions,which is completely meaningless and none of the parties will accept conditions set before the talks,” the Iranian parliamentary news agency quoted the minister as saying,according to Reuters.


Earlier,Fereydoon Abbasi,the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation,indicated that Iran was prepared to enrich uranium to 20 per cent purity “just to meet its own needs” for a research reactor but not beyond that point,the official IRNA news agency reported.

Separately,The Associated Press quoted Abbasi as saying that Tehran could stop its production of the more refined fuel,once it had stockpiled enough of it,continuing its enrichment at a lower level for power generation.

There was no immediate Western response to his remarks. Such apparent offers have been greeted with scepticism in the past,since the West is pressing for Iran to do so much more. The apparent difference in tone between the remarks of Abbasi and Salehi seemed to reflect continued debate among the Iranian elite over the handling of the planned negotiations. But it was not immediately clear whether the mixed signals represented a deliberate strategy.

The talks,taking place as Iran faces a tightening noose of economic sanctions,are set to begin in Istanbul later this week,Iranian news media reported on Sunday.

The reports followed days of confusion that at one stage looked like a derailing of the negotiations. Even on Monday,disputes seemed to persist over the date,with Iranian media speaking of talks on Friday and a European Union official saying that they would take place Saturday. Other reports had said the talks, would span both days.

The talks bring together Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — the US,Russia,China,Britain and France — along with Germany,the so-called P5-plus-1 countries.

Earlier this month,US and European diplomats said that one demand from the Obama administration and its allies would be a halt in the production of uranium fuel that is considered just a few steps from bomb grade. Western powers would also lay out opening demands for the immediate closure and ultimate dismantling of a recently completed nuclear facility deep under a mountain,known as Fordo,near the holy city of Qum,the diplomats said. IRNA quoted Abbasi as saying Tehran “does not require to enrich uranium higher than 20 per cent” — possibly a reference to concerns that,by processing uranium to that level of purity,Iran has taken an important technological step toward enriching to levels of more than 90 per cent needed for a nuclear weapon.

US Navy deploys 2nd aircraft carrier to Gulf
The US Navy says it has deployed a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf amid rising tensions with Iran over its nuclear programme. Cmdr. Amy Derrick-Frost of the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet said on Monday that the deployment of the nuclear-powered USS Enterprise along the Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group marks only the fourth time in the past decade that the Navy has had two aircraft carriers operating at the same time in the region.