News / Middle East

Iran Urged to 'Engage Seriously' in Nuclear Talks

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, left, and chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, right, meet in Moscow, June 18, 2012.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, left, and chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, right, meet in Moscow, June 18, 2012.
An EU spokesman says six world powers have begun talks with Iran in Moscow with an appeal for the Iranian side to "engage seriously" with an offer to resolve international concerns about the Iranian nuclear program.

Michael Mann said in a phone interview, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States) plus Germany hope Iran "finally" will negotiate on the proposals they made in the previous round of talks in Baghdad last month. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is representing the world powers in the talks, which resumed Monday in Moscow. The two sides have made little progress since an April meeting that ended a 15-month break in negotiations.

The world powers have been pressing Iran to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent purity, a level that some see as a short-step from the higher purity needed for nuclear weapons. The six-nation group also has been calling for Iran to remove stockpiles of highly-enriched uranium from its territory and shut down an underground facility at Fordo that has been producing the material.

In return, the world powers have offered to send Iran nuclear fuel for its medical research reactor and badly-needed spare parts for its aviation industry. Iranian leaders have dismissed such offers in the past as insufficient.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a German newspaper that Iran may accept a compromise on enrichment. In excerpts of the interview published Monday on his website, Ahmadinejad said that if European nations provide Iran with 20 percent enriched fuel, his government is ready to stop enrichment to that level.

Iran says its enrichment work is for peaceful uses including electricity generation and medical research. But, Israel and Western powers accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian energy program.

An Iranian delegate in Moscow told Iran's state-run news agency IRNA that the new talks will fail if the world powers do not recognize what Tehran sees as its right to enrich uranium. The Iranian diplomat also said Iran will not agree to further negotiations unless the six-nation group accepts a five-point Iranian proposal offered in Baghdad.

EU spokesman Mann said the Iranian plan calls for discussing a broad range of issues far removed from the nuclear dispute. He said the six-nation group is "willing to respond" to the Iranian ideas but said they fall short of what he called the "concrete" proposals of the world powers.

"We haven't seen engagement on the Iranian side yet," Mann said. "We're not prepared to talk for the sake of talking, we need (the Iranians) to drive things forward. We know things aren't going to happen overnight but we can at least get some momentum going if the Iranians are prepared to engage on the proposals we made."

The Moscow talks are scheduled to end Tuesday, but Mann said the world powers are "ready to stay if there is something to talk about."

The United States and European Union have been increasing pressure on Iran to compromise by tightening unilateral sanctions targeting Iranian oil exports, a major source of the nation's income. A complete EU embargo on Iranian oil is set to begin on July 1, while Washington plans to launch sanctions on businesses dealing with Iran's oil industry several days earlier.

Russia hopes the new talks will achieve enough progress to lead to more negotiations and prevent a diplomatic failure that could lead to foreign military intervention in Iran, a longtime economic partner of Moscow.

Israel sees a nuclear-armed Iran as a threat to its existence and has hinted that it could strike Iranian nuclear sites within months to remove that threat. World powers have expressed concern that an escalation of the dispute into a regional war would trigger a jump in oil prices and depress the fragile global economy.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Josh from: USA
June 20, 2012 10:18 PM
The image of Iran as an "existential threat" is the main reason why the West can cut Israel so much 'moral' slack when it comes to her gratuitous expansionist policies. This carefully engineered portrayal of Israel as a lamb among ravenous wolves means the West can turn a blind eye to the illegal settlements and foot dragging on the Palestinian issue. It's all self-serving bluster that benefits the domestic (and "extra-domestic") policies of Israel and to an equal or maybe greater extent, the fear-based Middle Eastern hegemony of the US and her allies.

Equally, Iran's rebound rhetoric (which is actually far more benign than the overt warmongering of Israel) helps its government solidify its own tiny ideological core support and rally its shock troops against an external threat. The sad irony here is that the Iranian government is only a threat to its own population. The mullah regime is basically a mafia style operation that rules through enforcers such as the Basij and the Revolutionary guard. The majority of the Iranian population are savvy enough to recognize the rhetoric for the propoganda that it is; whereas the reverse is true for Israelis and the Western populations who buy the nonsense that's fed to them news-speak style.

by: JohnWV from: USA
June 20, 2012 12:43 PM
Iran is only Israel's current fixation. America's entire electoral system has been corrupted by Netanyahu's Israel, AIPAC, Israel Firsters and ingenious distribution of enormous amounts of Jewish money. Our representative democracy is nearly defeated and the destruction of America as we know it well underway. Termination of the criminal treachery and treason demands immediate priority. The Government of the United States must again serve American interests, not the Jewish state's relentless pursuit of invulnerability, territorial conquest and apartheid supremacist empire in, and beyond, the Mideast.

by: Agnus from: Williams
June 20, 2012 12:17 PM
What a delightfully irrelevant distraction from the woes and impending collapse of the Euro zone!

by: Anonymous
June 20, 2012 12:17 AM
Iranian Government already deserves their hand smacked not just for their nuclear business, but because of their aiding Bashar in Syria. The Iranian Gov deserves a double smack... Too bad for the Iranian people they have a stupid dictator and government system, that is terrible. Too bad someone who cares about Iranians doesn't rule their country. Consider yourselves lucky that we haven't already distinguised your nuclear work.

by: Shorty from: USA
June 18, 2012 6:23 PM
Iran is killing thousands of our troops in Afgahnastan with IEDs, and threateans other nations on a consistant basis not to mention it suppress's and kills its own people. Yeah they should have nukes, sure, and if you dont believe they are trying to get them then good for you believing there baltant nonstop lies.

by: Sylvia Asyra from: Cairo, Egypt
June 18, 2012 4:03 PM
Iran is following the path of it's ally and arms supplier, North Korea. When NKorea were building a nuke program, the world did everything to stop them, including "stealing their kitchen sink", lol. As the NKoreans were already half starving to death, the West tried to deprive them 110%. With the same cycle of sanctions, threats, blockades and more sanctions etc. Yet the effort by the West was a total failure. NKorea developed nukes. Why does the "West" think that they can force Iran to capitulate? Iran has plenty of oil revenue , essential reserves and money in reserve. They are still selling a lot of oil. EVEN If you starved them to death, you won't hold them back. Remember it's name "The Islamic Republic of....". They won't stop, but will laugh in the face of the west until they get their weapons!!! The world will then descend into true darkness, g-d forbid. The world leaders at that time will be relegated to eternal infamy and disrespect for their failure to prevent Iran from succeeding. I'll be the happiest person in the universe if I'm proven WRONG!

by: Sam from: Iran
June 18, 2012 12:31 PM
Talks must be stopped. I don't understand why would we even want to talk with Americans if they don't have anything to offer? I'm not even Pro-Iranian government but West demands are illogical. Stop enrichment in exchange for civilian aircraft spare parts that shouldn't have been sanctioned in the first place? Iran has already stated that it is ready to halt enrichment of 20% uranium if it recieve relief from sanctions. If we are to ship out our stock of 20% uranium, dismantle Fordo and blah blah blah, it is logical to expect that we have to recieve someting in return? Otherwise there is no point in Talking. I think failure of the talks is the West intention.
In Response

by: Dr. D. from: Mesa AZ
June 18, 2012 3:07 PM
It is not Iran that controls the cost of Oil, it is the Oil Corporations that do! However, why can't Iran get a long with the rest of the World? I've met lot of people from Iran, and even have a close friend from there, and they all seem like wonderful people.
Uranium is a big pain in the Butt, just look at what happened to Japan less than a year ago.

by: Michael Schaeffer from: California
June 18, 2012 10:01 AM
And the world keeps turning, and Iran isnt going to fall off the planet and Iran is not going to negotiate. But at least we are not at war yet

by: AE from: Texas
June 18, 2012 9:38 AM
Could it be the other way around? The P5+1 should engage seriously by offering something substantive rather than used aircraft tires? If Obama wanted to solve this issue we would have done it by now.

by: Simba from: USA
June 18, 2012 9:34 AM
"Engage Seriously" = Comply with all our demands, legal or not, excessive or not, and don't ask us to recognize one iota of rights granted to you or inherently yours. Period. Oh, and we will punish countries that don't comply with American interests. So no doing business with others. There. Got it?
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