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Iran agrees to talks with world powers

Under pressure from international sanctions, Iran has agreed to restart diplomatic talks on its nuclear program next month, the European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, announced in Brussels on Friday.

The talks, which would include senior diplomats from the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, would be the first in more than a year and the first since world powers imposed new sanctions, which have started to weigh on the Iranian economy. A diplomat involved in the discussions said it was significant that Iran responded just days after the European Union published sweeping new regulations that, among other steps, bar investments in Iran's oil and gas industry.

Ashton, who had previously proposed three days of talks in Vienna starting on Nov. 15, said she had received a letter from Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, in which he agreed to meet "in a place and on a date convenient to both sides" after Nov. 10.

"I think this is a very significant move," she told reporters.

The last round of talks, in October 2009, were held in Geneva, and Iran has indicated that it would like to return to the Swiss city for this round as well. While the last meeting lasted just one day, Ashton has pushed for three days in order to delve more deeply into the issues dividing the two sides. She has also proposed the meeting start with an informal dinner in order foster a more cooperative atmosphere in the working meetings.

The diplomat involved in the talks said that Iranian diplomats in recent weeks have quizzed Turkish, Chinese and Russian diplomats about Ashton, who is new in her post, and have apparently concluded that they can do business with her. She replaced long-time diplomat Javier Solana last year, and this would be her first meeting with Iran.

World powers have offered Iran a package of incentives if it halts its enrichment of uranium, but Tehran has steadfastly refused to discuss its nuclear program. Last year's talks largely centered on a U.S.-French-Russian proposal to assist Iran with refueling an aging reactor used for medical purposes. The accord was intended to build confidence -- it would have resulted in a large stash of Iran's enriched uranium leaving the country -- but it was ultimately rejected by Iran's leaders.

With Iran having added to its stockpile of low-enriched uranium since then, and also enriching uranium at an even higher level, the United States and its allies have been crafting a new proposal that would require the Islamic Republic to give up even more enriched uranium in order to receive assistance. Iran, in its official statements, has given no indication such a deal would be acceptable -- and has insisted that its focus in the talks would be on broader international issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rather than its nuclear program.

Indeed, a copy of the letter from Jalili's office, seen by The Washington Post, simply refers to "the talks" and makes no mention of the subject, whereas Ashton's letters to Jalili have always emphasized the main focus would be the nuclear program.

By Glenn Kessler  | October 29, 2010; 11:55 AM ET
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Great news! More talks about talks that will lead to further talks about a possibility of more talks, meanwhile centrifuges keep cascading. Only the mongoloids in the State department believe this utter twaddle.

Posted by: garrafa10 | October 29, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Yet more progress since the exit of the Bush administration. Recovery is a slow and painful process. Thank you, Hillary Clinton.

Posted by: Provincial | October 29, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Economic sanctions? Really? Iran realizes that the GOP will take back at least one House of Congress. They know that they will be unable to continue to stonewall, like they've done with the spineless Democrats. Do people really forget 1980, after Ronald Reagan was elected President, how Iran quickly released the American hostages?
Of course, no mention of Obama's failure on the whole situation. He gave Iran a deadline and when they thumbed their noses to him, he just moved it back.

Posted by: slake2 | October 29, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Iran is a signatory to NPT and IAEA is still in charge of their LEU. The UN is the only international body that is currently monitoring and enforcing the Nuclear non-proliferation around the world. SO WOULD SOMEONE EXPLAIN AS WHY IRAN HAS TO GO TO THESE TALKS AGAIN??

Iran accommodated the West last time and agreed to the talks that she did not had to attend. They are again doing the same just to be agreeable and set precedent so they are not marked as stone wallining th eWest. Believe it or not they don't have to attend these as well. So, sanctions or no sanctions we can't get them to give up their unalienable rights to a peaceful nuclear program.

Posted by: Esther_Haman | October 29, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

The Nuclear program is just an excuse, and both sides know this. There r more important issues that they cannot discuss. So, things will pretty much remain the same, till one side makes big gains on the expense of the other...
Negotiations cannot reverse those gains...

Posted by: Kinesics | October 29, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Kinesics alleged that Iran's nhe Nuclear program is just an excuse, and both sides know this.

Oh really? Do you have hard evidence of this? Do you know something that nobody else knows?

With all the amazing and sophisticated intelligence resources that the CIA, NSA and other agencies have, not to mention the intelligence services of other nations such as Britain, Israel and Germany, you would imagine that after all these years, one shred of hard evidence to show that Iran is developing nuclear weapons would have been produced.

But like the mythical WMD in Iraq, Iran's supposed nuclear weapons are still a fiction promulgated by the USA, whose fabrications against Iraq were the cause of a highly illegal war that killed hundreds of thousands of people.

So where's the evidence? I mean to say, Japan, Brazil and other nations are running a civilian nuclear energy program and they are all able to divert nuclear material and knowhow to build nuclear weapons and they are just as big a threat as Iran.

Why I say this? Iran has not attacked another nation for over 400 years and apart from the stupid rantings of Ahmedinejad, there's no indication that Iran will attack Israel.

In any case if Iran even thinks about it, Israel will render Iran uninhabitable for a millennium and I don't think the Iranians want to commit collectlve suicide, not even the fanatics. That's why the mullahs don't strap bombs on themselves, but send out brainwashed fools do do those deeds.

But the bottom line is - EVIDENCE. As they say, show us the money. Produce some proof that Iran is building nukes or go and get lost.

One would think that people in the USA would have realised how they were duped with the WMD in Iraq and not fall for this rubbish again, but obviously Kinesics is one of those mugs who buys whatever propaganda and lies the White House warmongers concoct.

Posted by: ziggyzap | October 29, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

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