Iran on Monday formally acknowledged that a new round of talks on its nuclear program had been set for Istanbul, Turkey, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, April 9).
"The first round of talks between Iran and the P-5+1 will be held on April 14 in Istanbul and a second round will be held in Baghdad" at a time to be determined by the participating states -- Iran, Germany and permanent U.N. Security Council members China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, the Iranian Supreme National Security Council said in a prepared statement.
Officials in Tehran had previously offered differing comments on whether they would accept conducting the meeting in Istanbul, site of the last round of nuclear talks in January 2011. Relations between Ankara and Tehran have grown frosty over matters such as their differing positions on the upheaval in Syria and the recent installation of a U.S. antimissile radar in Turkey.
Iranian officials last week suggested meeting in Beijing, Baghdad or Damascus rather than Istanbul, angering Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "They (the Iranians) continue to lose prestige in the world because of a lack of honesty," he complained last week.
A representative for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is organizing the upcoming meeting on behalf of the six world powers, said "we have agreed to launch talks in Istanbul on April 14." He did not address the potential for additional talks or their potential shift to the Iraqi capital, AFP reported (Agence France-Presse I/Spacewar.com, April 9).
"We're looking forward to these talks creating a conducive environment for concrete progress," AFP quoted White House spokesman Jay Carney as saying on Monday. "We are very clear-eyed about what Iran needs to do in order to fulfill its international obligations and be able to reassure the international community that it is not pursuing nuclear weapons.
"We need concrete steps taken by the Iranians to assure that they will forsake their nuclear weapons ambitions," Carney said (Agence France-Presse II/Google News, April 9).
Washington and allied governments suspect Iran of seeking a nuclear-weapon capability under the guise of a civilian atomic effort. Tehran says its nuclear operations have no military component and has refused to halt its controversial uranium enrichment operations even while faced with four U.N. Security Council resolutions and unilateral measures instituted by the United States and a host of other nations. Uranium enrichment can be used to produce nuclear reactor fuel or weapons material.
Iranian leaders say enrichment for peaceful purposes is their nation's right as a member of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
"Whoever wants to violate the rights of the Iranian nation will be dealt a blow to the mouth so bad they will forget the path to their homes," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said during a speech on Tuesday.
He played down the impact of sanctions against his country, which include an EU oil embargo set to be fully instituted in July.
"We have enough foreign currency so that, even if one barrel of oil is not sold for two or even three years, the country will be managed well and the enemies will not see their wishes (come true)," according to Ahmadinejad (Agence France-Presse III/Google News, April 10).
Tehran's petroleum sales could drop by 40 percent, up to 1 million barrels daily, starting in mid-2012 as the European Union and other governments institute curbs on Iranian oil, Reuters quoted the International Energy Agency as saying (Marcus George, Reuters, April 10).
The six powers' emphasis at the upcoming meeting would be on pressing Iran to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent and to give up its stock of material already refined to that point, according to recent reporting. Such material could enable the Middle Eastern state to more quickly produce nuclear-weapon fuel, which must be refined to roughly 90 percent, but Tehran insists it would only use the substance as fuel for a medical isotope production reactor.
Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Fereidoun Abbasi on Sunday suggested the government might be willing at some point to cease development of 20 percent enriched uranium, the Associated Press reported.
"The job is being carried out based on need," Abbasi stated. "When the need is met, we will decrease production and it is even possible to completely reverse to only 3.5 percent" enrichment levels.
However, he rejected any idea of relinquishing the higher-enriched material already held by Iran.
"Such a stockpile could enable Iran to make a bomb in the future, should it decide to do so," said issue expert Meier Aveda, who was born in Iran and now lives in Israel.
"Unless an agreement is reached whereby this stockpile is transferred abroad for conversion into nuclear fuel or, at the very minimum, placed under international supervision in an another country, it will be very difficult for the (world powers) to accept Iran's current offer," he said.
Abbasi rejected another anticipated demand from Western nations, that it shutter its subterranean enrichment plant at Qum.
The seriousness of Abbasi's proposal remains to be seen, according to AP. Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has rejected any advance conditions for the upcoming meeting (Karimi/Murphy, Associated Press I/Google News, April 9).
The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said in a prepared statement that "we hope all parties will cherish and seize this opportunity, show flexibility and sincerity in the dialogue, to open a constructive and sustained dialogue process," AP reported.
Assistant Foreign Minister Ma Zhao is to lead Beijing's team to the session (Associated Press II/San Francisco Chronicle, April 10).
In the upcoming talks, the world powers should emphasize establishing a number of steps to curb the potential for Iran to reach the point where it could assemble a nuclear weapon, and to look ahead toward a deal that would resolve fears that the nation would push for an atomic arsenal, the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security said in an analysis posted online on Monday (Albright/Brannan, Institute for Science and International Security, April 9).
Iran on Monday formally acknowledged that a new round of talks on its nuclear program had been set for Istanbul, Turkey, Agence France-Presse reported.