Iran Nuclear Talks Open in Baghdad; Sanctions to Continue
Iran nuclear talks with six world powers opened today in Baghdad, as details of the Iranian nuclear program were negotiated. China, Russia, Britain, France, and the US plus Germany (the P5+1) pressed Iran to scale back its nuclear program but refused to relieve sanctions on the country.
Rather than relieving sanctions, the 'P5+1' made an alternative 'offer' to Iran, of which the official details have not yet been released; however, Michael Mann, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said Iran will be required to reduce production of 20 percent-enriched uranium in exchange for the offer with undisclosed incentives, among additional stipulations.
Iran has not officially responded to the offer as of now and is reported to have presented a counter offer.
EU officials reiterated that the world powers remain 'hopeful' that Iran would comply; however, Iranian officials are suggesting that there is much more work to be done before an accord, according to Taleb Mahdi, an Iranian delegate who denied that the P5+1 had offered anything new.
"We did not receive any new proposal," said Mahdi after the sides adjourned. "Until now there is no indication of anything optimistic or of positive progress."
Negotiations will likely continue tomorrow in Baghdad.
Iranian Press TV quoted Kazem Jalili, spokesman for the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, saying, "The wall of distrust between Iran and the West is high and our public opinion has serious doubts about their compliance with their obligations. The negotiations ... are a good litmus test to prove the West's goodwill."
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Agence France-Presse: World powers, Iran haggle in crunch nuclear talks
World powers pressing Iran to scale back its nuclear programme Wednesday offered a new batch of incentives that fell short of the sanctions relief sought by Tehran, which made a counter-proposal. [...]
Iranian state media ran reports slamming the P5+1 package, with the IRNA news agency calling it "outdated, not comprehensive, and unbalanced."
Tehran is loath to give ground on what it proudly sees as its right to a peaceful nuclear programme without the prospect that the international community will cut its economy some slack.
Iran made a counter-proposal in the Baghdad talks of "five items based on the principles of step-by-step and reciprocity," the official with Tehran's delegation said.
"We said to the other side that we need a comprehensive approach. We need the steps that both sides have to take to be clearly defined and there is no possibility of going back on them," the official said.
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"We are getting into the substance of the matter," Mann, who joined negotiators meeting inside a villa in Baghdad's heavily guarded Green Zone, told journalists. "We hope the Iranians will respond positively. We're going to make solid progress if things go well."
While Iran, target of an investigation by the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency since 2003, denies it is seeking to make nuclear weapons, the Islamic Republic has refused to cooperate with inspectors and is under multiple international sanctions. [...]
The sides remain far from an accord, according to Taleb Mahdi, an Iranian delegate who denied that the P5+1 had offered anything new. Iran presented its own step-by-step proposal to the P5+1 group that includes nuclear and non-nuclear issues, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported, without citing anybody.
"We did not receive any new proposal," Mahdi told reporters in Arabic after the sides adjourned. "Until now there is no indication of anything optimistic or of positive progress."
The U.S. and the EU have adopted dozens of financial, trade, insurance and energy-related sanctions since November to squeeze Iran's economy and force its leaders to abandon any illicit aspects of their nuclear program.
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