Iran said on Saturday that late this month or early next month would be a good time for nuclear talks with the six world powers, as it claimed it had dealt with Western espionage against its atomic facilities.
“The end of October or early November is a good time for talks between Iran and five-plus-one,” Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Manouchehr Mottaki said at a news conference with his visiting Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez.
“The exact date, time and what level the talks should be held are being negotiated by both the sides. Once the details are finalized, they will be announced.”
Talks between Iran and Britain, China, France, Russia, the US and Germany have been deadlocked since Oct. 1, last year when the two groups met in Geneva.
The talks are aimed at addressing Western suspicions that Iran is seeking to make atomic weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear program, a charge Tehran denies.
In Brussels on Saturday, a spokesman for the EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the six powers in the nuclear talks with Iran, also said it was not yet known when they would resume.
“We’re not in a position to confirm that a date has been set,” spokesman Darren Ennis said. “Mrs Ashton is still ready to talk to Iran and is hopeful that this will be possible.”
On Friday, German Minister for Foreign Affairs Guido Westerwelle said Berlin and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have detected signs that Iran was ready to talk about its nuclear program.
“We have not been able so far to detect any substantial changes in the Iranian government’s behavior. However, we are detecting new signals of a readiness to talk,” Westerwelle said after meeting with IAEA chief Yukiya Amano in Berlin.
“Whether this readiness to talk leads to concrete talks that are hopefully constructive, time will tell, but it seems that these signals are being transmitted. We have both detected this in our respective areas.”
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had banned talks until the middle of last month after Tehran was hit with new UN sanctions on June 9.
Iranian officials have regularly insisted that during any talks Tehran would reiterate that its nuclear rights be recognized.
Iran’s atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi, meanwhile, said Western spying on its nuclear facilities had been thwarted by Tehran ensuring that its physicists and engineers are better looked after.
Salehi said that in the past Western countries had lured Iranian nuclear specialists abroad “with offers of better education or jobs outside Iran,” the Fars new agency reported.
“People who fell for it in the past unfortunately leaked information abroad,” it quoted him as saying.
“But the [Iranian Atomic Energy] organization has been able to gain the trust of its engineers and address their concerns, so they can continue to work in the organization without any concerns,” he said.
This was not the first Iranian admission of Western or Israeli espionage against its nuclear program. It has arrested several suspected spies in the past and prosecutors generally seek the death penalty for those convicted.
In November 2008, telecommunications engineer Ali Ashtiari was executed after being found guilty of involvement in a Mossad plot to intercept the communications of Iranian military and nuclear officials.