AFP: Six world powers seeking to persuade Tehran to rein in its nuclear program have yet to receive a formal reply from Iran on their proposal to resume long-stalled talks, US officials said Wednesday.
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Six world powers seeking to persuade Tehran to rein in its nuclear program have yet to receive a formal reply from Iran on their proposal to resume long-stalled talks, US officials said Wednesday.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents world powers in the nuclear dialogue with Iran, has proposed to resume the long-stalled talks in Vienna, starting with a dinner meeting on November 15, followed by two days of consultations.
Top Iranian officials, including Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, welcomed the offer but have yet to present a formal response. And President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said negotiations were the only solution.
“The first thing we’re waiting for is a response from Iran,” State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said.
He said the so-called P5+1 that groups the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia was prepared to discuss nuclear fuel swap proposals with the Islamic republic “if Iran is prepared to sit down and seriously debate.”
“But at the same time, we need to have Iran come forward and demonstrate affirmatively that it’s living up to its obligations, and its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes,” he added.
Should they take place as planned, the talks would be the first high-level meetings between Iran and the P5+1 since another round held October 1, 2009 in Geneva.
Iran has signaled it is ready to discuss a possible exchange of atomic fuel at the upcoming talks for a Tehran-based research reactor after consultations broke down last year between the Islamic republic and the Vienna group comprising France, Russia, the United States and the UN atomic watchdog.
Under an initial proposal brokered by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran would send more than 2,600 pounds (1,200 kilograms) of its low-enriched uranium to Russia and France for conversion into the fuel rods required for the Tehran reactor.
In May, Iran responded by its own counter-proposal brokered by Turkey and Brazil, which was cold-shouldered by the West before the United Nations Security Council slapped a fresh round of sanctions on Tehran less than a month later, with the United States and EU taking separate measures.
Crowley stressed that the fuel swap proposal “is not a substitute for the ongoing concerns that we have about the nature of Iran’s nuclear program.”
He called for a “sustained, serious conversation, and where Iran has to convince the international community that it’s abiding by its international commitments,” before noting that “we have our doubts as to whether Iran is living up to its obligations.”
The nuclear negotiations aim to address international suspicion that Iran is seeking to develop atomic weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear program, a charge Tehran vehemently denies.