Iran: Nuclear talks taking 'realistic' turn
Updated On: Feb 28 2013 05:29:35 AM CST
World powers did not push Iran to halt enrichment at its nuclear plants during secretive talks Wednesday, the country's chief negotiator said.
In an interview with CNN, Saeed Jalili said the six-nation bloc conducting the negotiations is taking more "realistic" steps, including "paying more attention to the rights of Iran."
The so-called P5+1 -- the United States, France, Britain, Germany, China and Russia -- did not release details of the meeting in Kazakhstan aimed at working toward a resolution of the international battle over Iran's nuclear activities. But negotiators acknowledged making some concessions.
Jalili, in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, also stayed mum about what was being offered. But he indicated that some previous requests may be off the table.
Asked whether the group called on Iran to halt uranium enrichment, he said, "They did not raise such a thing."
And asked about suggestions that negotiators may want Iran to freeze activities at the Fordo enrichment facility, Jalili said there is "no logic" for it to be shut down. "They have paid attention to this point. Therefore it is considered for our point of view a positive step."
A senior U.S. official, however, said the current P5+1 proposal calls for Iran to "suspend enrichment at Fordo and constrain the ability to rapidly resume enrichment there."
U.S. officials have expressed concerns about the facility, which is buried deep beneath a mountain near the Iranian holy city of Qom.
The United States and several other nations have expressed concerns that Iran is using its nuclear energy program as a guise for a nuclear weapons program. Iran insists its program is purely for civilian purposes.
A senior U.S. official said Washington's greatest concerns are about Iran's continued enrichment of uranium to a level of 20 percent, which is a step closer to the 90 percent uranium enrichment needed for a nuclear bomb. Once 20 percent is reached, the uranium is considered "highly enriched," and can more easily be further enriched to weapons-grade uranium.
Negotiators have previously suggested Iran export uranium and then import it back in once it's been enriched elsewhere, so that the process does not take place inside Iran.
Jalili said 20 percent enrichment serves "our peaceful needs," and "there are mechanisms to prove" it is for peaceful purposes. Tehran has said the enriched uranium is useful for medical purposes.
He indicated there may be room for negotiation on this issue, saying Iran currently has no way to get the enriched uranium "but to produce it."
Jalili spoke through a translator.
'The path of pressure was wrong'
The Obama administration has offered direct talks with Iran, but Tehran has said it won't do so under pressure. Asked Wednesday about the offer, Jalili said the United States is able to raise its "points and issues" through the P5+1.
And Jalili slammed the sanctions against his country imposed by the international community, led by the United States, over the past couple of years.
He insisted the pressure isn't working.
"They are witnessing our achievements in peaceful nuclear activities," he insisted. "They are asking and requesting us to talk about these achievements. Therefore it shows that the path of pressure was wrong."
Iranians have "resisted and defended their rights," he said.
The sanctions have contributed to Iran's acute economic struggles.
The European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said the six nations were forced to make concessions since the last talks in Moscow last year in May.
"We put what we call a confidence-building proposal on the table," Ashton said in a statement. "This is an opportunity for Iran to take some initial steps that would improve the confidence of the international community in the wholly peaceful nature of their nuclear program, in return for which we would do some things as well."
The two sides are to meet next in Istanbul on March 18 for talks involving technical experts.
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