Iran Ready for 'Serious' Nuclear Talks
Ali Akbar Dareini, My Way News:
Iran's top nuclear negotiator said Tuesday that Tehran was ready to enter "serious negotiations" over its disputed nuclear program but did not say whether it was willing to suspend uranium enrichment - the West's key demand.This offer of talks is nothing new. The Iranians have been trying to restart negotiations for months now, ignoring the fact that they created the breakdown in negotiations by restarting its uraninum enrichment program. The only Western precondition for negotiations has been suspending its enrichment program. Will the West back reward Iran again?
The negotiator, Ali Larijani, hand-delivered Iran's response to a Western package of nuclear incentives aimed at persuading it to suspend enrichment. He gave the reply to ambassadors from Britain, China, Russia, France, Germany and Switzerland, state-run television said, without disclosing details.
"Iran is prepared as of Aug. 23 to enter serious negotiations" with the countries that proposed the package, state-run television quoted Larijani as telling the envoys.
Iranian officials close to the meeting said Iran offered a "new formula" to resolve the dispute as part of its formal response to the Western incentive package. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.
"Iran has provided a comprehensive response to everything said in the Western package. In addition, Iran, in its formal response, has asked some questions to be answered," one official said, without elaborating. READ MORE
European Union officials declined to comment, saying they needed to study the Iranian offer.
State-run television said Iran's response meant Tehran was committed to its promises.
"Iran's response suggests Iran is committed to dialogue and its promises. ... It is in contrast with America's policy of unilateralism," the television said.
The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany in June offered Iran the package that aims to persuade Iran to roll back its nuclear program.
The United States is represented by Switzerland, which looks after U.S. interests in Tehran because it has not had diplomatic relations with Iran since 1979 when Muslim fundamentalists overran the U.S. Embassy.
Mohammed Saeedi, deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said in comments published Tuesday that Tehran's response would provide "an exceptional opportunity" for a return to the negotiating table for a compromise.
"Iran's response to the package is a comprehensive reply that can open the way for resumption of talks for a final agreement," Saeedi said.
Even so, Iran on Monday twice showed its determination to push ahead with its nuclear program, which continues under the possible threat of economic and diplomatic sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council if it does not halt uranium enrichment by Aug. 31.
It turned away International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors from an underground site meant to shelter its uranium enrichment program from attack and its top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared that Tehran will continue to pursue its nuclear activities.
Iran has rejected the resolution passed by the council last month as "illegal," saying a compromise can only emerge from talks.
Likewise, Saeedi's optimistic words Tuesday were tempered by his assessment of the proposed packaged as containing "serious ambiguities" that need to be clarified in talks.
The package does not mention the part of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty that affirms signatories' right to pursue nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, Saeedi said.
The United States and some of its Western allies accuse Iran of seeking nuclear weapons. Tehran has denied the charges saying its nuclear program is merely aimed at generating electricity, not bombs.
The Islamic republic has repeatedly said it will never give up its right to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel but has indicated it may temporarily suspend large-scale activities to ease tensions.