Iran Nuclear NewsScientist’s death dominates nuclear talks as Iran blames agents

Scientist’s death dominates nuclear talks as Iran blames agents

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Bloomberg: Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki blamed foreign agents for killing a nuclear scientist as Iran’s diplomats met European and U.S. officials for the first talks in a year on the Persian Gulf nation’s nuclear program.

By Jonathan Tirone

Dec. 6 (Bloomberg) — Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki blamed foreign agents for killing a nuclear scientist as Iran’s diplomats met European and U.S. officials for the first talks in a year on the Persian Gulf nation’s nuclear program.

While Iran’s envoy to the Geneva talks, Saeed Jalili, focused the talks on the Nov. 29 bombing that killed a nuclear scientist, Mottaki told reporters in Athens that foreign agents were responsible. Iran’s meeting with the P5+1, composed of China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.S. and U.K, is due to run until tomorrow.

“We believe some of the secret foreign services have been involved,” Mottaki said today. “Those who think murders and military violence can destroy nuclear technology have made a big mistake.”

The two-day meeting is the latest bid to avert a clash with Iran, holder of the world’s No. 2 oil and natural gas reserves, over its nuclear program. The U.S. and European countries accuse Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is designed to generate electricity for a growing population.

The goal of the talks is to find a way for the P5+1 to build momentum for further negotiations, say past and present diplomats from countries participating. An immediate breakthrough isn’t likely, they say.

“Trust is going to take a long time to develop and they’re not going to come out of this meeting with an agreement,” Paul Ingram, executive director of the British American Security Information Council, a London-based policy advisory group, said today by telephone. “There is an increased willingness now to discuss real issues.”

U.S., China Talks

President Barack Obama called his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, yesterday to stress “the importance of P5+1 unity” at the talks, the White House said today in a statement. Iran’s deputy secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Bagheri, met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov last night in Geneva, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Jalili opened the talks by condemning the killing of physicist Majid Shahriari, state-run Mehr news agency said, citing an unidentified Iranian official in Geneva.

Tensions have escalated since Iran accused U.S., Israeli and U.K. agents of killing Shahriari in a Nov. 29 bombing. The U.S. said it wasn’t involved while Israel and the U.K. declined to comment.

Lack of Flexibility

“It is far from assured that both sides will show flexibility to move beyond the initial stage,” Richard Dalton, a former British ambassador to Iran who consults with the London-based Chatham House policy-advisory group, said in a telephone interview. “The atmosphere doesn’t look very good.”

Tensions may mount further after Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s atomic energy agency, said yesterday that the country had achieved self-sufficiency in producing yellow cake — uranium in its raw form — as part of its nuclear program. He made the announcement on the state-run Press TV channel.

Negotiators will need to split into groups to address the gulf separating the sides, Dalton said. The P5+1 group wants Iran to address concerns about the nuclear weapons allegations. Iran has sought to broaden the talks to include issues of regional security.

Iran wants to discuss a wide range of issues “related to international security and political and economic cooperation toward resolving global problems,” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Dec. 4, according to the state-run Fars news agency.

Building Confidence

“The objective is to engage Iran into a phased approach to confidence building, which should lead to meaningful negotiations,” Ruediger Luedeking, Germany’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said on Dec. 2 in Vienna on behalf of the European powers participating in the talks.

The talks are the first since October 2009, when meetings included one-on-one discussions between Jalili and U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns. Jalili and Burns are each heading their respective delegations at today’s meeting. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is leading the P5+1 delegation.

Mottaki said on Dec. 1 that his government hopes for “serious” talks in Geneva and that Iran shouldn’t have to “compromise” its rights. UN sanctions have deprived the country of $60 billion in energy-related investment, according to U.S. estimates.

“There is still room for a renewed effort to break down mistrust and begin a careful, phased process of building confidence between Iran and the international community,” Burns told the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee in a Dec. 1 hearing. Negotiators will “look for ways in which we could build confidence in steps.”

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