Iran Nuclear Talks Elicit Optimism, Skepticism
Iran Nuclear Talks Elicit Optimism, Skepticism
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In a sign of progress, six world powers and Iran have agreed to meet again in the coming weeks to discuss nuclear weapons and other issues. The meeting took place after a 15-month pause in which concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions have grown.  

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany and Iran agree that the meeting laid the groundwork for an ongoing, productive dialogue.

European Union Foreign Secretary, Javier Solana calls it the start of an intensive process. He says all issues related to Iran's nuclear program were put on the negotiating table, including a detailed review of the six-powers' freeze-to-freeze proposal.

Under this proposal, Iran would agree to freeze its uranium enrichment program in exchange for a freeze on sanctions and a package of economic incentives. Iran did not respond to the proposal when it was made last year.  

Solana says the parties have agreed to intensify dialogue in the coming weeks.

"There will be a second meeting before the end of October. An agenda for that meeting will be worked out through diplomatic channels and it will focus on nuclear issues, including proposals that were put forward by both sides. And, it will also deal with some global issues that any of the parties wish to address," he said.  

Iran's recent disclosure of a uranium enrichment facility near Qom has increased concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions. Tehran says it is enriching uranium for peaceful purposes.

Javier Solana says Iran has agreed to open the site to U.N. inspection.

"Iran has told us that it plans to cooperate fully and immediately with the International Atomic Energy Agency on the new enrichment facility near Qom and will invite the agency, experts from the agency to visit the facility soon -- we expect within the next couple of weeks," he said.  

In a sign that the talks were moving forward, a statement by a U.S. deputy spokesman confirmed that U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns held a bilateral meeting with chief Iranian delegate Saeed Jalili.

The statement says Burns reiterated the international community's concerns about Iran's nuclear program and that Iran needs to take concrete and practical steps to build international confidence about the peaceful nature of Teheran's nuclear program.

As the talks were wrapping up here in Geneva, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters at the United Nations in New York that Iran considered the atmosphere at Thursday's talks to be "constructive".

Mottaki added that Iran supports the continuation of dialogue. He is heard here through a translator.

"From the point of the level of discussions, as we told earlier, the Islamic Republic of Iran has the readiness to enhance the level of such talks up to the level of a summit meeting," he said.

At the meeting, diplomats from the six world powers underlined the need for full transparency, confidence building measures and practical steps to move the discussions forward. Looming in the background is the threat of international sanctions if Tehran does not comply with the demand that it end what Western nations say is a nuclear weapons program.