/ 9 April 2012

Iran calls for ‘honesty’ in nuclear talks

Iran on Monday urged “honesty” at crucial talks with world powers due to be held this week in order to defuse a tense international showdown over its disputed nuclear activities.

“We hope the P5+1 will come to the negotiating table with honesty, and we also will make an honest effort so that both sides reach a win-win conclusion,” Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told Iranian Parliament’s website.

Salehi warned the P5+1 group — consisting of UN Security Council members the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China, plus Germany — should not try to impose conditions on the talks before they begin on Saturday in Istanbul.

The aim was that “Iran gain its rights and the P5+1 have its stated concerns alleviated” over Tehran’s nuclear programme, he said.

The United States and its allies fear Iran’s nuclear activities mask a drive towards atomic weapons capability — something Tehran strenuously denies. The United States and Israel have threatened to launch attacks on Iran if diplomacy on the issue fails.

Salehi rejected a weekend report in the New York Times newspaper quoting unnamed US and EU diplomats as saying the West was going into the talks with demands that Iran close an underground nuclear bunker in Fordo, and that it halt enriching uranium to 20%.

“Those [demands] have been raised only by the media and we cannot make a judgment based on them,” Salehi said.

“Putting forward preconditions before the meeting happens is equivalent to reaching a conclusion before the negotiations start. It is completely meaningless. No one will accept preconditions before the talks,” he added.

Salehi did not speak about the venue of the talks or Iran’s see-sawing in recent days over whether the negotiations should be held in Istanbul.

The foreign minister had initially said Iran favoured Istanbul. But other Iranian officials and politicians last week said they were opting for Baghdad instead.

The office of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is representing the P5+1, on Monday confirmed that “we have agreed to launch talks in Istanbul on April 14”.

Spokesperson Michael Mann added: “We hope that this first round will produce a conducive environment for concrete progress.”

Iran’s last talks with the P5+1 powers were also held in Istanbul, in January 2011, and ended in failure. — AFP