Iran’s Salehi Says West Shows Good Faith on Nuclear Talks

Prospects for resolving the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program have improved following signs of “good faith” from Western powers, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said.

For the first time during any of the international nuclear talks, “we witnessed signals that the other side is acting in good faith,” Salehi told a news conference in Tehran today, referring to discussions last month in Almaty, Kazakhstan. “We hope they continue to do so.”

The West wants “to deal with Iran; they are not after confrontation,” Salehi said in comments translated from Farsi and broadcast by state-run Press TV. Over time, Western nations have understood that Iran “is not a country that gives in to their illogical demands,” he said.

Iran, a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, says its atomic program is purely civilian and intended for electricity production and medical research. The U.S. and its allies say Iran’s nuclear program may have a military intent and have imposed financial, trade and energy sanctions to try to force the government in Tehran to curb its activities.

Iranian delegates met with those from China, Germany, France, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S. in Kazakhstan Feb. 26 and 27. No diplomatic breakthrough was announced and the details of an international proposal to Iran weren’t released. The two sides are scheduled to meet March 18 in Istanbul and on April 5-6 in Almaty.

Easing Sanctions

The state-run Iranian Students News Agency today cited an unidentified Iranian diplomat as saying the world powers have offered to ease economic sanctions on Iran if it limits the enriched uranium in its possession within six months.

International negotiators asked Iran to stop producing uranium enriched to 20 percent if it has enough to fuel a Tehran research reactor, said the official, who according to ISNA is knowledgeable about the content of the talks. The reactor produces medical isotopes for cancer treatment and operates using metal plates constructed with uranium enriched to a 20 percent concentration.

If Tehran complies with the negotiators’ demands, then world powers initially would lift sanctions on gold, precious metals and petrochemicals, the diplomat was cited as telling ISNA. Banking sanctions would be eased later, and bans on repairing airplanes and supplying aircraft parts also would be lifted, the diplomat was cited as saying.

Weapons Concern

Iran is struggling as the sanctions have hurt growth and contributed to an inflation rate nearing 30 percent. The sanctions were imposed over concern that uranium enriched to 20 percent could be turned into weapons-grade material within months.

If the stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium exceeds the Tehran reactor’s needs, Iran would ship the surplus to a third country, under the International Atomic Energy Agency’s supervision, for six months, the diplomat was cited as telling ISNA.

Iran would be able to keep surplus medium-enriched uranium if it transformed the material into metal plates, the diplomat was cited as saying. Turning the uranium into metal renders it more difficult to further enrich it into weapons-grade material.