Friday, February 23, 2018

Iran resumes talks over its nuclear program

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Diplomats gathered here Friday for talks with Iran about its nuclear enrichment program, with European officials suggesting that a serious commitment from Iran to negotiate may be enough to continue the talks at another round in late May.

Iran agreed to resume these talks with six major world powers — the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany — after more than a year without any negotiations, raising hopes in the West that Tehran might be ready to strike a deal over its nuclear program, which it denies has military intent.

The six do not always agree among themselves about tactics but do want to ensure that Iran will not become a nuclear-weapons-capable state and that it will comply with its requirements under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to open its facilities to complete inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The diplomats suggested that a positive first step would be for Iran to agree to allow the inspectors to visit all nuclear sites, including those Iran refused to show them in February. That would help restore confidence and could be enough by itself to open the way to further talks, diplomats said.

Iran has fueled Western suspicions by denying the atomic energy agency access to the Parchin military base near Tehran, where the agency says Iran may have tested explosives for warhead research.

If the talks fail, the United States and Israel have refused to rule out military action to stop Iran's steady enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity, just a few technical steps from bomb-grade.

Iran is holding the talks with the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

The talks opened informally Friday evening with a dinner between the chief Iranian negotiator, Saeed Jalili, and the chairman of the six powers, Catherine Ashton, the foreign-policy chief of the European Union. The two were to discuss the shape of today's formal negotiations, diplomats said.

On Friday, Iran's deputy negotiator, Ali Baqeri, held separate talks with senior Chinese and Russian officials in Istanbul, and the six powers met among themselves to coordinate tactics. Russia and China have been the most reluctant of the six to press for further sanctions on Iran.

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