Iran, EU and US to hold historical nuclear talks in Geneva; Iran Open to US Diplomatic Talks, Official Says
GENEVA (Reuters) - Major world powers will sound out Iran's readiness to negotiate an end to the long dispute over its nuclear program on Saturday. The unprecedented participation of a senior U.S. official in the one-day meeting in Geneva, together with Iranian comments playing down the likelihood of an attack by the United States and Israel, have raised hopes of progress.
Arriving for talks with officials from the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany -- the so-called sextet -- chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said he had "positive intentions". Jalili has a mandate from Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to take any decision needed, a senior Iranian official told Reuters, adding that the meeting "will clarify the fate of the negotiations".
Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil producer, rejects suspicions that it wants the atom bomb, saying the aim of the program is to generate electricity so that it can export more crude oil and gas. Western diplomats say they want the talks to clarify Iran's response to an enhanced sextet offer, delivered last month, of technical and commercial incentives to suspend uranium enrichment. "We are interested in creating conditions in a creative manner to start negotiations," said a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who presented the offer to Tehran.
The EU foreign policy chief's spokeswoman says the EU wants 'solid relations' with Iran in different areas, including the nuclear technology. Cristina Gallach, who discussed the Saturday meeting in Geneva with Press TV, said that "the EU position is that we want very much a solid relationship with Iran, one that encompasses all areas, including the nuclear issue, political and economic relations." EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana will meet Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in Geneva on Saturday. The meeting will also bring together envoys from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany.
Gallach stressed that the world powers that have offered "a generous package of incentives" to Iran last month want to see what the response of Iran is to the package to start a new round of negotiations with Tehran. She expressed hope that an 'appropriate framework' for the negotiations with Iran would be worked out in the Geneva talks. Pointing to Washington's decision to send a top diplomat to Geneva to attend the talks on Iran's nuclear program, Gallach said that the US and other countries that have sent envoys to the meeting want Iran's nuclear issue to be solved through negotiation.
Tension has intensified since Tehran tested missiles last week, alarming Israel and unsettling energy markets on fears that conflict could disrupt supply. Yet oil prices slipped on Friday, ending 13 percent down from last week's record of over $147 a barrel of crude. Traders cited as factors the attendance of Burns -- a career diplomat who helped restore U.S. ties with Libya in 2006 -- and a comment by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki that the chances of an Israeli or U.S. strike were "almost zero".
Photos courtesy of BBC News, EPA, and Press TV
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