World powers seek 'early negotiated solution' with Iran
The United States and five other world powers are seeking an "early negotiated solution" to the nuclear standoff with Iran, according to a copy of a draft statement obtained Wednesday by AFP.
The draft was due to be finalized when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets her counterparts from Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany at around 11:00 am (1500 GMT) on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
Iran has signaled a new willingness to engage the international community over its nuclear program, but has so far failed to meet the terms for talks and its defiance triggered a fourth round of UN Security Council sanctions in June.
But the draft statement, if adopted, amounted to a fresh diplomatic overture.
"We reaffirmed our determination and commitment to seek an early negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear issue and focused our discussion on further practical steps to achieve it at an early date," the draft said.
The draft said the six powers are "ready to engage with Iran" in the context of implementing a nuclear fuel swap deal that was agreed in Geneva in October last year, adding they looked forward to an "early meeting" with Iran.
Under the deal, Iran would ship most of its low-grade uranium to France and Russia so that it could be enriched to higher levels and returned to Iran to fuel a medical research reactor in Tehran.
The deal had been designed to buy time and build confidence while the world community waits for Iran to meet its demand to halt uranium enrichment, a program western powers fear masks a drive for a nuclear bomb.
But the deal stalled as Iran sought to modify its terms.
In June, the UN Security Council then approved a fourth round of sanctions against the Islamic republic, which in turn said it would suspend talks until September.
The draft also said the chief diplomats discussed the new sanctions.
The United States, which spearheaded the drive for the sanctions, has long argued that Iran will only return to the negotiating table once it feels the measurses bite.
It says the current sanctions are beginning to hurt Iran, while Tehran insists they have no effect.
"We confirmed the need for Iran to comply with the UN Security Council, and IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) Board of Governors requirements," the draft said.
These bodies insist Iran fully open up its nuclear facilities to inspection and halt uranium enrichment, a program which the Western powers fears Iran is using to build a nuclear weapon.
Iran denies the charge, saying the program is for peaceful purposes.
Clinton spokesman Philip Crowley told AFP that Washington does not respond to leaked statements, but signalled continued US willingness to engage Iran in a constructive dialogue.
"If Iran is ready for serious discussions, all they have to do is let us know," he said in an email.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in New York to attend the UN General Assembly meeting, told media that his country was ready to resume talks with world powers over its nuclear program.
The UN sanctions had also damaged the chances for an improvement in US-Iranian relations, he added. He blamed international politics for the growing tensions over the nuclear program.
"Iran's nuclear case is a political case," the New York Times quoted him as saying. "Otherwise, why would it be essential for the details of our nuclear program be made available to the media?"
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said meanwhile that "we want to get Iran to agree to resume reasonable negotiations. Iran must show clearly that there is no military nuclear program."
© 2010 AFP