Clinton Welcomes Iran’s Agreement to Return to Nuclear Talks

The U.S. is “encouraged” that Iran has agreed to talks on its nuclear program next week in Geneva, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today.

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said yesterday he is ready for talks with a European Union-led group that includes the U.S., China, Russia, France, the U.K. and Germany. The parties, which last met more than a year ago, will meet Dec. 6-7 in Geneva, the office of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said yesterday in Brussels.

Since it last met with the group, known as P5 plus 1, Iran has come under sanctions targeting its banking system and oil industry. U.S. administration officials say the impact of those sanctions is driving Iran back to the negotiating table.

“We are encouraged that Iran has agreed to meet in Geneva next week,” Clinton said at a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Astana, Kazakhstan. “This is an opportunity for Iran to come to the table and discuss the matters that are of concern to the international community,” she said, “first and foremost their nuclear program.”

State Department cables released by this week showed that Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, had appealed to the U.S. to attack Iran to stop its nuclear program. Saudi Arabia has said it isn’t sure whether the cables are genuine. The Sunni Muslim kingdom and Iran, which follows Shiite teachings, are regional rivals.

Clinton said that Iran and the P5 plus 1 will discuss the accord they reached in 2009, under which Iran agreed to exchange low-enriched uranium for fuel for a research reactor.

Now the parties will have to take into account “developments in Iran’s nuclear program since that agreement was reached and not implemented,” Clinton said.

Nuclear Power

Iran says it is seeking nuclear technology to generate electricity for civilian purposes, including medical research at the Tehran Research Reactor. The U.S., United Nations and EU say Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons.

Uranium can fuel a reactor or, if it is enriched to more than 90 percent purity, form the core of a bomb. Most modern atomic weapons contain about 25 kilograms (55 pounds) of the heavy metal.

Iran has said it needs 120 kilograms of 20 percent-enriched uranium to supply the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes for cancer patients and will soon run out of uranium.

“Iran is entitled to the use of civil nuke power for peaceful purposes,” Clinton said. “It is not, however, entitled to a nuclear weapons program.”

The purpose of next week’s “talks will be to underscore the concerns of the entire international community about Iran’s intentions,” Clinton said.

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