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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Comments page of 2
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by: Michael from: USA
June 18, 2012 9:28 AM
Iranian leaders must choose between practice of faith and pursuit of science. Science believes one event follows another with a 'first cause' not rational, hence eternal linear events. Faith in the Koran, however, puts forth faith as a higher and lower direction with all causes belonging to God alone. How can one person practice true faith and practice nuclear science at the same time?
In Response

by: Johnny from: USA
June 18, 2012 11:09 AM
From the question that you posted "How can one person practice true faith and practice nuclear science at the same time?" you are accusing all nuclear scientist that have walked the face of the earth as being athiest. That is a really bold statement. Should we take a survey and ask all the nuclear scientist if they believe in a god or not? I think the results would overwhelmingly dispute your thought process.

by: JohnWV from: USA
June 18, 2012 9:25 AM
However did we get it all so backwards? As a signatory to the Non Proliferation Treaty, Iran has the right to develop and implement nuclear technology. Israel rejected the NPT and has no such right. Yet, the Jewish state has ICBM nukes and openly threatens Iran; actually campaigns for war against Iran. Israel, not Iran, should be sanctioned and forced to reveal its nuclear machinations to IAEA inspection. However did we get it all so backwards?
In Response

by: Jim Andrews from: Munich, Germany
June 18, 2012 3:51 PM
Would you have a problem allowing nuclear technology to Nazi Germany if they signed an NPT when other peaceful nations had them? Probably not. You must think the world powers are stupid, insisting that a totalitarian, hegemonious, warmongering, proudly fanatic and threatening nation (like Iran), should have the same rights as a true democratic state. Because of the thinking of people like you, 90,000,000 people directly or indirectly lost their lives in WWII, due to the Nazis and Axis powers.
In Response

by: Geoff from: UK
June 18, 2012 3:45 PM
Simple America pays Israel three Billion dollars per year to pay AIPAC to buy, bribe threaten and assasinate western Politicians and Media to acheive and report whatever Israel wants. And Israel wants to keep on bullying and dividing and conqering the middle east while distracting the world from its continued attacks on Palestinians. Why don't China and Russia state that in the talks ?
In Response

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
June 18, 2012 1:21 PM
Israel is a civilized people and does not need telling that human life is precious. Iran thinks nothing of human life and peace to it means no Israel, no non-believers in islam. Peace to Iran means sponsoring and financing terrorism to destroy all "infidels" who do not belong to islam, and those who do not practice Ahmadinejad's form of islam. Thus comparing Israel and Iran is like comparing light and darkness.
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