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EU Says Iranian Proposal At Nuclear Talks 'Very Useful'

  • RFE/RL's Radio Farda

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton (left) speaks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the start of two days of closed-door nuclear talks in Geneva.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton (left) speaks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the start of two days of closed-door nuclear talks in Geneva.

GENEVA -- The European Union says Iran made a "very useful" presentation in Geneva on how to resolve the dispute over its nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at developing an atomic bomb.

Michael Mann, the spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, made the announcement after the start of two-day talks in Geneva between senior officials from Iran and the 5+1 group of world powers.

"We have come here with a sense of cautious optimism and a great sense of determination, because we believe it is really time now for tangible results," Mann said.

Mann told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif unveiled the proposal in a two-hour presentation, which suggests that Tehran had come to the talks with a detailed plan.

"The morning session started at around 10 o'clock Geneva time with an introduction by the [EU] High Representative Catherine Ashton, and then the Iranian foreign minister, Mr. [Javad] Zarif, gave a PowerPoint presentation of the ideas that the Iranians are putting forward," Mann said. "The meeting went on until about 12 o'clock local time, so it was about two hours in total."

Ashton is leading the 5+1 group, comprising the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France -- plus Germany.

'Capacity' For A Breakthrough

No details have emerged so far on what, if any, concessions Iran may have proposed.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi -- who is conducting the actual negotiations for Iran -- told the media that the world powers had a good reaction to Iran's plan, whose formal title is "An End to the Unnecessary Crisis and a Beginning for Fresh Horizons."

Araqchi added that the Iranian plan, which he said "has the capacity to make a breakthrough," would be discussed in detail later on October 15. He gave no details of the proposals, describing them as "confidential."

However, Araqchi told Iran's ISNA news agency that any final agreement should eliminate sanctions and enable Iran to continue to enrich uranium.

Britain's "The Guardian" newspaper reports that Iran's proposal is thought to lay out a timetable for confidence-building measures that would offer some limits on Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions and recognition of its right to enrich uranium.

In a comment to Iranian news agency IRNA, Araqchi said the nuclear offer being presented in Geneva did not cover unannounced snap inspections of its atomic facilities.

During a break in talks on October 15, Deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the U.S. delegation would welcome bilateral talks with Iran on the sidelines of the Geneva meeting.

12-Month Window?

The talks are the first since Iranian President Hassan Rohani took office in August. He has vowed to resolve the decade-old nuclear standoff with the international community in six to 12 months.

Tehran has rejected previous international demands that it stop enriching uranium to the 20-percent level and ship out its stocks.

The six world powers want Iran to stop 20-percent enrichment because it is a short technical step away from weapons-grade enrichment. Iran maintains its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on October 15 urged world powers to reject partial concessions from Iran "that would fail to bring about the full dismantling of the Iranian military nuclear program."

Israel says it will not allow Iran to have more than 250 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium -- enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb.

The most recent report by the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), says Iran has 185 kilograms of 20-percent enriched uranium and is maintaining this level by converting excess material into fuel rods.

In his address to the UN General Assembly in New York earlier this month, Netanyahu warned Israel would stop Iran from acquiring an atomic bomb even if it had to act unilaterally.

Based on reporting by Reuters, dpa, AFP, and RFE/RL's Radio Farda