World powers, Iran advance nuclear talks into second day

7th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

World powers and Iran are due Tuesday to carry on talks over Tehran's disputed nuclear programme for a second day, after what both sides described as a "constructive" meeting.

After a 14-month break, the first day of discussions in the Swiss city of Geneva was "constructive" and "forward moving", an Iranian official said.

"They should resume tomorrow at 9:00 am to fix the framework for future discussions during which we could talk about nuclear disarmament and about cooperation in the civil nuclear domain," he said.

"The (nuclear) right of Iran will not be discussed. If we agree on a framework, we could have several sessions of negotiations."

A Western source also said Monday's talks were "good, constructive, and in a good atmosphere."

"If the negotiations have carried on for such a long time, it was because there were things to talk about," said the source, who added that a number of subjects were addressed, "including the nuclear dossier."

A French source said the meeting was "mainly centred on nuclear" issues.

Tehran on Sunday added a new dimension to its nuclear drive by revealing it had mined and produced its first home-grown batch of uranium yellowcake, instead of seeking to import new supplies.

That triggered statements of concern in Washington and Europe shortly before the meeting between the European Union's top diplomat, Catherine Ashton, and Iran's chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, got under way in Geneva.

Besides Ashton, officials from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States were also present at the negotiations held at the Swiss UN mission building.

Jalili began by making a strong protest against the recent assassination of a top nuclear scientist in Tehran, according to an Iranian source.

The secretary of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council described the attack as a "Middle Age and fascist act" and asked why the international group did not condemn the attacks, said the source.

He later held one-on-one meetings with the heads of the Chinese, Russian and British delegations.

Sergey Rybakov, who heads the Russian delegation, was quoted by Iranian media as telling Jalili: "We needed this round of talks and during the negotiations we will try to help to remove obstacles."

The meeting, which comes after the last attempt in October 2009 to temper Iran's uranium enrichment drive, is taking place amid tougher international sanctions on Tehran and few hopes that it will yield a deal.

Tehran maintains that it is seeking nuclear energy for peaceful purposes but Western countries suspect that the Islamic republic is engaging in a covert programme to build nuclear weapons.

Before Sunday's yellowcake announcement by Iranian atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi, European sources hoped the meeting would help re-engage the Iranians even if it did not produce instant results.

But the Iranians have in recent days reiterated that Tehran's nuclear plans were non-negotiable.

Salehi added a new dimension by revealing that Iran was now "self-sufficient" in the entire nuclear fuel cycle by being able to supply itself with the raw material for fuel, and would enter the talks with world powers "with strength and power."

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on a visit to Athens said there were "certain shared positions where we could cooperate."

But he insisted that "the era when certain countries imposed their will is over" and vowed that Iran "will not settle for anything less" than "what is our right."

In Brussels, Israeli Ambassdaor Jeremy Issacharoff said his expectations for the Geneva talks "are measured."

"Iran is trying to get more legitimacy for its nuclear programme, it is trying to gain time," he said.

In Bahrain, Gulf countries eyed the talks with scepticism. Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan openly criticised the West for excluding Iran's neighbours from the dialogue.

© 2010 AFP

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