World powers sought a response from Iran yesterday over a proposal for ending the decade-long nuclear crisis, even as the Islamic republic struck a tough line over its right to enrich uranium.
The world powers were assessing whether Iran is ready to accept a series of demands that the powers presented at the last such negotiations at the same venue in Kazakhstan in February.
In the first round of an expected two days of talks in the mountain city of Almaty, Iran said chief negotiator Saeed Jalili had presented proposals of his own, in a scenario all too familiar from years of stalled diplomacy.
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, who represents the world powers, had said going into the talks that she hoped Iran would make a “considered, balanced and well-thought out response to try and reach an agreement on how we move forward.”
Jalili’s deputy, Ali Bagheri, said Iran presented its own counterproposal, but refused to specify whether it had actually presented a firm response to the powers’ plan.
“At this morning’s meeting, his excellency Dr Jalili presented specific plans and proposals for starting a new round of cooperation between Iran” and the world powers, Bagheri told reporters shortly after the first of what are expected to be several plenary sessions wrapped up.
The last meeting in February ended with unusual expressions of cautious optimism from both sides. Iran described those negotiations as “positive,” while the world powers called them “useful.”
However, Jalili defiantly indicated that Tehran had no intention of giving ground on the most important concession.
He told the six powers — comprised of the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany — that Iran demanded an immediate recognition of his country’s right to enrich uranium.
“We think that they can open up tomorrow’s [Friday’s] talks with one phrase — and that is to accept Iran’s right, particularly its right to enrich,” Jalili said in a speech on Thursday at an Almaty university.