Iran nuke talks end on a positive note

2014-02-20 18:26
Iran Foreign Minister Javad Mohammad Zarif gives a statement on the last day of the EU 5+1 Talks at the UN headquarters in Vienna. (Dieter Nagl, AFP)

Iran Foreign Minister Javad Mohammad Zarif gives a statement on the last day of the EU 5+1 Talks at the UN headquarters in Vienna. (Dieter Nagl, AFP)

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Vienna - Iran and six world powers ended the opening round of nuclear talks on an upbeat note on Thursday, with both sides saying they had agreed on a plan for further negotiations meant to produce a comprehensive deal to set limits on Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

In a joint statement, they said the next round of negotiations would begin in Vienna on 17 March, continuing a process likely to take at least six months and probably longer.

Expectations had been modest as the talks started on Tuesday, and the positive tone on a framework for future talks appeared aimed in part to encourage sceptics inside and outside Iran that the negotiations had a chance to succeed despite huge gaps between the Iranians and the six powers.

A good start

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who came to the talks vowing Iran would never strip down its nuclear facilities, was smiling and relaxed as he read out the joint statement. But in a message intended for sceptics at home who fear Iran will give up too much at the talks, he told state TV afterward that his nation would "not close down any site".

The six want Tehran to agree to significant cuts in its nuclear programme to reduce concerns it could be turned quickly to weapons use.

Iran opposes cuts, saying its programme is not aimed at building weapons. The US and its partners say that Iran must come to an agreement if it wants a full end to sanctions crippling its economy.

"We have identified all of the issues we need to address for a comprehensive and final agreement", said Catherine Ashton, the EU's top diplomat who convened the talks between Iran and the six powers, the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

"It won't be easy, but we've gotten off to a good start", she said in a statement read later in Farsi by Zarif.

A Western diplomat said Ashton would visit Tehran from 9-10 March for preparatory talks. He demanded anonymity because his information was confidential.

From Baghdad, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow had the impression that "all sides are interested in being serious and being pragmatic".

The talks are designed to build on a first-step deal in effect since last month that commits Iran to initial nuclear curbs in return for some easing of sanctions. The deal can be extended by mutual consent after six months. Both sides say any final deal will be tough to reach.

The six countries want to leave Iran with little capacity to quickly ramp up its nuclear programme into weapons-making mode with enriched uranium or plutonium, which can be used for the fissile core of a missile warhead.

They say Iran should dismantle or store most of its 20 000 uranium-enriching centrifuges, including some not yet working. They also want a reactor now being built to either be scrapped or converted from a heavy-water setup to a light-water facility that makes less plutonium.

- AP
Read more on:    un  |  sergey lavrov  |  javad zarif  |  iran  |  us  |  russia  |  iran nuclear programme
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