Preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and a proposal to transfer atomic-reactor fuel to Iran top the agenda as U.S. and European diplomats meet for a second day in Geneva with their Iranian counterparts.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a speech today in the city of Arak that talks will be “fruitful” if sanctions against Iran are canceled. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said at a press conference in Tehran that Iran is going into the talks with a “positive attitude.” Nuclear non-proliferation, disarmament and atomic-technology transfer will be the points of discussion, he said.
“What matters most to the Americans is Iran’s uranium enrichment and their alleged studies” into nuclear weapons, Ivan Oelrich, senior fellow at the Washington-based Federation of American Scientists, said in a telephone interview from New Orleans. “If both sides agree to talk on those issues, then that would be a step forward.”
Iran’s nuclear program, which has drawn four sets of United Nations sanctions, is at the center of the European Union-led talks in Geneva. Iran says it’s producing uranium to fuel atomic reactors. The U.S. and Europe accuse Iran of trying to build nuclear weapons.
Iran used yesterday’s meeting in Geneva with the so-called P5+1 -- China, France, Russia, the U.S., the U.K. and Germany -- to talk about a Nov. 29 bombing in Tehran that killed an Iranian nuclear scientist. Iran has blamed foreign agents for the bombing.
Iran’s envoy to the Geneva talks, Saeed Jalili, opened the session by condemning the killing of physicist Majid Shahriari, state-run Mehr news agency reported, citing an unidentified Iranian official in Geneva.
“We believe some of the secret foreign services have been involved,” Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters in Athens yesterday. “Those who think murders and military violence can destroy nuclear technology have made a big mistake.”
The U.S. has said it wasn’t involved, while Israel and the U.K. have declined to comment.
“Trust is going to take a long time to develop, and they’re not going to come out of this meeting with an agreement,” Paul Ingram, executive director of the British American Security Information Council, a London-based policy advisory group, said yesterday by telephone. “There is an increased willingness now to discuss real issues.”
International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors have been stymied by Iranian officials, who have so far refused to discuss documents that show Iran may have researched the construction of nuclear weapons. The IAEA has been investigating Iran’s nuclear work since 2003, when it was revealed that Tehran’s government had hidden atomic research for two decades.
Tensions may mount further after Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s atomic energy agency, said Dec. 5 that the country had achieved self-sufficiency in producing yellowcake -- uranium in its raw form -- as part of its nuclear program.
The goal of the talks is to find a way for the P5+1 -- the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany -- to build momentum for further negotiations, say past and present diplomats from countries participating. An immediate breakthrough isn’t likely, they say.