Chinese, French, German, Russian, British and U.S. negotiators -- the so-called P5+1 group -- and Iran’s representatives didn’t issue a public statement as daylong talks recessed yesterday at almost midnight. Talks will resume at 8 a.m. Baghdad time, according to the Western official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deliberations are being conducted privately.
The meeting was convened in an effort to forestall a military strike against Iran, a prospect Israel hasn’t ruled out. While the Persian Gulf nation, target of a probe by the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency since 2003, denies it wants to make nuclear weapons, it has refused to cooperate with inspectors and is under multiple international sanctions.
The negotiators met a day after IAEA inspectors bridged an impasse with Iranian authorities over wider access to suspected nuclear sites, including the Parchin military complex. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said he expected the accord to be signed “quite soon.”
“It could take some time before we see that there is really an agreement,” Olli Heinonen, the IAEA’s former chief Iran inspector and now a visiting professor at Harvard University, said on Bloomberg Television’s “Last Word” yesterday. “We have an ample amount of time, at least until the end of this year, to solve this problem.”
Iran, which the IAEA said tripled its output of higher-enriched uranium in February, could build an atomic weapon in months if its leadership chose to do so, Heinonen said. The IAEA is expected to issue its quarterly report on Iranian uranium production later this week.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday reiterated Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei’s decree that nuclear weapons are forbidden under the Islamic Republic’s laws.
“Iran believes the annihilation of all weapons of mass destruction is a sacred goal and that the security and health of humans depend on it,” state-run Press TV cited Ahmadinejad as saying. Iran has said its nuclear program is for civilian purposes.
The negotiators held detailed discussions on concrete steps during their first day of talks, according to a senior U.S. official who briefed reporters afterward, characterizing the meetings as the beginning of a process rather than the end.
Sanctions are putting pressure on Iran, part of a dual-track policy that also includes engagement, the U.S. official said. The U.S. is prepared to impose additional sanctions if need be, the official said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told reporters in Tehran that he expected the negotiations to “bring good news.” He warned that imposing new sanctions on his country would be a “huge and strategic mistake.”
Before the Baghdad meeting, U.S. and the EU diplomats ruled out suspending any of the dozens of financial, trade, insurance and energy-related sanctions imposed on Iran since November. The nations said they were willing to offer limited confidence-building measures such as nuclear-safety assistance, research-reactor fuel, airplane parts and help fighting drug smugglers in return for concessions.