World Powers Accept Iran's Proposal for Talks

(Sep. 14) -European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, left, meets with Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in 2008. The men are expected to hold new talks on Oct. 1 (Behrouz Mehri/Getty Images).
(Sep. 14) -European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, left, meets with Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in 2008. The men are expected to hold new talks on Oct. 1 (Behrouz Mehri/Getty Images).

The five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany are willing to talk with Iran on a wide range of issues in an attempt to resolve longstanding concerns over the Middle Eastern state's nuclear activities, the U.S. State Department announced Friday (see GSN, Sept. 11).

The United States and several European powers want to negotiate a halt to elements of Iran's atomic program that could support nuclear weapons development; Tehran has ruled out such a settlement, though, contending that its ambitions are strictly peaceful.

"We are seeking a meeting now based on the Iranian paper to see what Iran is prepared to do," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Friday, referring to an Iranian negotiations proposal presented to the powers last week. "If Iran responds to our interest in a meeting, we'll see when that can occur. We hope that will occur as soon as possible."

"We want to see serious engagement on the nuclear issue, in particular," Crowley said. "We are willing to address any other issues that they want to bring to the table. But, clearly, if Iran refuses to negotiate seriously, we -- the United States and the international community and the Security Council -- can draw conclusions from that. And then based on that, we'll make some judgments in the future."

"If we have talks, we will plan to bring up the nuclear issue," he said.

Such multilateral talks could give U.S. President Barack Obama more time to seek a peaceful settlement to the nuclear standoff. Obama set an informal September deadline for Iran to agree to new nuclear talks, and his administration has not ruled out targeting the nation with military strikes or new economic penalties if diplomacy fails (Robert Burns, Associated Press I/Time, Sept. 12).

Among the world powers set to take part in the talks, France, Germany and the United Kingdom have generally supported international sanctions against Iran, the Washington Post noted. The European governments have maintained some trade ties with the Middle Eastern state, though, and China and Russia have been more reluctant to back tough action against Tehran (Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, Sept. 12).

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana announced today that he hold would hold preliminary talks with Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili on Oct. 1, AP reported. Envoys from the six world powers are expected to attend the meeting, according to Solana spokeswoman Christina Gallach.

The Obama administration intends to send a diplomat to the discussion, said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "This is an important first step," he said (George Jahn, Associated Press II/Yahoo!News, Sept. 14).

Tehran on Saturday appeared to leave the door open for discussion of its nuclear effort, AP reported.

"Should conditions be ripe, there is a possibility of talks about the nuclear issue," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said without elaborating (Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press III/Google News, Sept. 12).

On Sunday, though, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stressed that his country's nuclear rights would remain off the table, Agence France-Presse reported.

"We are ready to talk about international cooperation and resolving global economic and security problems as we believe that such issues cannot be resolved without everyone's participation," state media quoted him as saying (Agence France-Presse I/Spacewar.com, Sept. 13).

"We must stand firm for our rights. If we give up our rights, whether nuclear or other rights, this will lead to decline" of the nation, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday. Khamenei wields the final word on all Iranian political decisions.

Meanwhile, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin cautioned the West against launching an attack on Iran's nuclear sites.

"This would be very dangerous, unacceptable, this would lead to an explosion of terrorism, increase the influence of extremists," Putin said. "I doubt very much that such strikes would achieve their stated goal."

Putin added that "the Iranians should show restraint in their nuclear program," AFP reported.

"We have told Iran that it has the right to a civilian nuclear program but that it should understand what region of the world it is in," Putin said. "This is a dangerous region and Iran should show responsibility, especially by taking into account Israel's concerns, all the more so after the absolutely unacceptable statements about the destruction of the state of Israel" (Agence France-Presse II/Spacewar.com, Sept. 11).

A senior U.S. diplomat said the Obama administration hopes that "Russia will join us and our partners in increasing pressure on Iran, so that they see that there is a cost to their lack of cooperation."

"It's not a question of punishing Iran," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon told Interfax, "but of raising the cost to Iran of pursuing that course, which we worry about because it could lead to an Iranian nuclear weapon and further proliferation in the region."

It would not be appropriate for the U.N. General Assembly to address the Iranian nuclear dispute in its meeting this month, he added. "It is a matter for the Security Council, which has already taken a number of steps, including Chapter 7 sanctions resolutions on Iran" (Interfax, Sept. 12).

Iran repeated its contention Saturday that it does not plan to build a nuclear bomb, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

"We regard production of weapons of mass destruction as contrary to our religious, human and national principles," Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said, according to state media. "Manufacturing nuclear weapon is not and has never been on our agenda" (Xinhua News Agency, Sept. 12).

Elsewhere, a German court has begun hearing the case of a citizen accused of supplying Iran with high-speed cameras that could be used in nuclear weapons development, AP reported.

Mohsen Vanaki, 49, breached German trade and weapons regulations by completing the sale, according to prosecutors. The defendant has denounced the charges as "completely false" (Associated Press IV/Times of India, Sept. 11).

September 14, 2009
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The five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany are willing to talk with Iran on a wide range of issues in an attempt to resolve longstanding concerns over the Middle Eastern state's nuclear activities, the U.S. State Department announced Friday (see GSN, Sept. 11).

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