4/12/2012 - Iran Says It Will Offer Unspecified Proposals at Coming Nuclear Negotiations
Iran’s top nuclear negotiator said Wednesday that he would offer “new initiatives” at the coming talks with world powers on its disputed nuclear energy program, apparently trying to strike a posture of conciliation without specifying which ideas he intended to propose.
The assertion by the negotiator, Saeed Jalili, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, came two days before the talks, suspended in mutual frustration more than a year ago, are to reconvene in Istanbul. Mr. Jalili’s remarks, reported by the Islamic Republic News Agency, represented the first time he had publicly suggested that Iran would present something new at the talks since an agreement on resuming them was announced last month.
Still, Mr. Jalili said nothing about the substance of Iran’s position or the central issue in the dispute: Iran’s enrichment of uranium, which at low-purity levels is used to produce energy and medical isotopes, but at much higher purity levels can fuel atomic bombs. Iran has been stockpiling a supply of enriched uranium for years, some of it considered only a few technical steps away from bomb grade, in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding a halt to the activity.
Iran insists that it is legally entitled to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes and denies that it wants to become a nuclear weapons state. But the United States and its European allies have imposed increasingly onerous sanctions on the country in response to the enrichment program, including a European Union embargo of Iranian oil that will take effect on July 1.
President Obama has called the negotiations Iran’s “last chance” to resolve the dispute diplomatically. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has said that the United States has no patience with Iranian stalling in the negotiations. Israel has suggested that it will bomb suspected Iranian nuclear sites if the negotiations fail.
The negotiations will be held Friday and Saturday between negotiators for Iran and the so-called P5-plus-1 group of countries — Britain, China, France, the United States and Russia, which are the five permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany.
“Iran’s representatives will participate in the negotiations with new initiatives and we hope that the P5-plus-1 countries will also enter talks with constructive approaches,” Mr. Jalili said.
He also denounced the sanctions imposed on Iran as useless bullying. “The language of threat and pressure against the Iranian nation has never yielded results but will lead to more seriousness in the attitude of the Iranian nation,” he said.
His remarks echoed more boastful assertions on Tuesday by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who declared that the sanctions were a failure and that Iran had accumulated such a stockpile of hard currency that it could survive for years even if the country were unable to sell any oil, its most vital export.
But American and European diplomats have said the United States and its European allies will demand that Iran immediately dismantle the new Fordo uranium-enrichment facility buried deep under a mountain near Qum, halt all production of uranium fuel enriched to 20 percent purity, which is considered just a few technical steps from weapons-grade purity, and ship stockpiles of that fuel out of the country.
That position suggested that the world powers are at least open to the idea of monitored low-purity uranium enrichment in Iran, rather than a blanket halt to all enrichment.
A hint of possible compromise from Iran emerged this week, when Ferydoon Abbasi, the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, was quoted by Iranian news agencies as saying that Iran was prepared to enrich uranium to a maximum 20 percent purity just to meet the needs for a medical research reactor.