Iran says expects nuclear talks on April 13
Dubai, March 28, 2012
Iran expects to reopen talks with world powers that could defuse mounting tensions over its disputed nuclear programme on April 13, Iranian media quoted Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi as saying on Wednesday.
Turkey has offered to host the talks and the location will be decided in the next few days, Salehi said, after greeting Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on his arrival in Tehran.
A Brussels-based diplomat also said April 13 was the likely date.
"Talks regarding the venue are underway," Salehi was quoted as saying by the Iranian Students' News Agency. "Turkey has announced its willingness to host the talks between Iran and major powers and it seems that P5+1 has welcomed it. This suggestion has also been given to Iran and we are considering it." Tehran would formally reply soon, he said.
The last meeting between Iran and the representatives of the United States, Russia, France, Germany, Britain and China - a group known as the P5+1 because it comprises all five veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council plus Germany - in Istanbul in January 2011, failed to even agree an agenda.
Since then Washington and the European Union have imposed tough new sanctions on Iran, accusing Tehran of seeking nuclear weapons, a charge Iran denies. Relations with the EU hit new lows when the bloc announced an embargo on Iranian oil and Britain closed its Tehran embassy after it was ransacked by protesters.
Western diplomats have said it is hard to be optimistic about the talks given Iran's previous track record, but analysts say the negotiations could provide a breathing space for all sides over the possibility of an immediate Israeli attack on Iran.
"It will be difficult for the Israelis to attack Iran while there are nuclear talks ongoing," said Gala Riani, an analyst at London-based risk consultancy Control Risks.
"It will also temporarily boost the position of Western camps ... as they will seek to illustrate that tighter sanctions on Iran are having a desired effect by bringing the Iranians back to the negotiation table."
Israel and the United States have threatened military action if Iran fails to abandon its uranium-enrichment activities. On Tuesday an Israeli official played down the prospect of an imminent attack on Iran, saying Iran's atomic programme could still be hampered through sanctions and sabotage.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is expected once again to lead the talks on behalf of P5+1.
Earlier this month the group called on Iran "to enter, without pre-conditions, into a sustained process of serious dialogue, which will produce concrete results."
The United States and its allies have repeatedly accused Iran of covertly seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran says it has the right to pursue a peaceful nuclear programme under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has refused to suspend uranium enrichment.
Turkish premier Erdogan arrived in Tehran for two days of talks on Iran's nuclear programme amid strained relations between the two countries over the continuing bloodshed in Syria. – Reuters