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Iran Hints at Wider Inspections in Nuclear Talks

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As talks between Iran and the six world powers continued Wednesday, a senior Iranian official suggested Tehran could allow the U.N. atomic watchdog wider inspection powers as part of an effort to resolve a decade-old nuclear dispute with the West.

The discussions in Geneva bring together Iranian officials and representatives of the so-called P5+1 group made up of Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany.

Key P5+1 demands include the acceptance by Iran of a comprehensive verification regime - with unannounced checks by the International Atomic Energy Agency - and a reduction in Iran's level of uranium enrichment.

None of the details in the Iranian proposal have been made public.

But Iran's state-run news agency IRNA quoted Deputy Foreign Minster Abbas Araqchi as saying neither inspections nor uranium reduction are within the first part of Iranian proposals, "but form part of our last steps."

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Tehran's plan contained three phases that could settle the long-running nuclear standoff "within a year," with the first achievable steps "within a month or two, or even less."



Both sides praised the first day of negotiations Tuesday, when Iran's foreign minister outlined technical aspects of a new plan aimed at assuring the international community its nuclear program is peaceful. In exchange, Iran is seeking relief from international sanctions imposed to try to force it to halt uranium enrichment activities.

The Geneva talks, the first since relative moderate Hassan Rouhani was elected Iran's president in June, are widely seen as the best chance in years to defuse a stand-off over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who is not part of these talks, said Wednesday he felt the opening day was "useful" and featured what he called "serious discussion."



"There's a real opportunity to make progress in these talks and I urge Iran to seize that opportunity both today and in the weeks to come."



Speaking to reporters in Tokyo, Hague also welcomed Iran's overtures to better engage the world since the election of President Rouhani, but said that what matters going forward is the country's actions.



"Now we need to see that matched by actions, by real concrete change in the nuclear program, and so any decisions about sanctions must be related to decisions or actual developments, positive developments, in the way that Iran pursues its nuclear program."



Iran's President Rouhani has promised to lead a diplomatic effort to get economic sanctions against Iran eased, but P5+1 officials have said Iran must prove its sincerity through concrete steps before that will happen.

In previous negotiations, world powers called for Iran to give up its existing stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent purity and send it abroad. Uranium of that purity is a short technical step away from being converted to weapons-grade material.

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