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Iran, World Powers Resume Nuclear Talks In Istanbul

  • RFE/RL

Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Said Jalili (right) and EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton arrive for nuclear talks in Istanbul.

Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Said Jalili (right) and EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton arrive for nuclear talks in Istanbul.

Iran and major world powers have launched two days of new talks in Istanbul, Turkey, over Tehran's controversial nuclear program.

The two-day meeting on the edge of the Bosphorus is expected to be no more successful than previous attempts at breaking the impasse.

But U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on January 20 U.S. officials hoped to establish a "constructive process" for talks with Iran.

"We are not expecting any big breakthroughs," Toner said. "But we want to see a constructive process emerge that leads to Iran engaging with the international community in a credible process and engaging and addressing the international community's concerns about its nuclear program."

The Iranian delegation, led by chief nuclear negotiator Said Jalili, is meeting the so-called P5+1 -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany -- led by European Union foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Host Turkey will not be a direct participant in the discussions.

Iran's National Security Council, which is led by Jalili, said today the talks had begun in "a positive atmosphere."

December Talks Went Nowhere

Previous talks over the past years in Geneva -- the last ones took place in early December, breaking a 14-month hiatus -- have made little progress toward resolving the deadlock.

The negotiators in Istanbul are reportedly preparing to revive the idea of a uranium-for-fuel swap.

A first version of a swap was agreed in October 2009, but collapsed shortly afterward.

In May 2010, Brazil and Turkey by themselves brokered a swap deal with Iran in Tehran, but it was rejected by the West.

Visiting Moscow on January 20, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Iran stood behind this latest proposal.

"Right now, I can tell you that we stand behind the Tehran declaration and are ready to carry out talks with the Vienna Group regarding a fuel swap," he said.

Medical Research Reactor

Under a uranium-for-fuel swap deal, Iran would give up an agreed amount of its low-enriched uranium, and in return, the world powers would provide fuel for a medical research reactor in Tehran.

Offering an incentive to Iran in Istanbul on January 20, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said lifting sanctions "must also be on the agenda" of the talks.

"The stance of Russia and all the other participants in the six-party talks is that Iran's nuclear program and the unresolved issues related to that program should be at the center of discussions, but this should not be the only topic on our agenda," Lavrov said. "Other issues should be on the agenda, including the possible lifting of sanctions depending on whether Iran cooperates more effectively with the IAEA and works out current problems."

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has called on major powers to lift sanctions imposed on his country if they wanted to see progress in negotiations.

The Iranian leader remained defiant this week, warning that Tehran would "not retreat an inch" from its nuclear program.

The UN Security Council has imposed four rounds of sanctions on Iran in recent years over its refusal to suspend uranium-enrichment work, which many countries are concerned could be directed toward the development of a nuclear weapon.

Iran denies this, insisting that its nuclear program is peaceful.

written by Antoine Blua, with agency reports

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