BRUSSELS, (AFP) — Iran agreed Friday to resume long-stalled nuclear talks with world powers after November 10, the European Union’s foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said.
In a letter to Ashton, who represents the six powers negotiating with Tehran over its disputed nuclear programme, Iran said its chief negotiator Saeed Jalili was ready to restart the talks “from November 10th on, in a place and on a date convenient to both sides.”
“I think it’s a significant move and we’re now in touch with Iran to see if we can agree the time and the place which is possible,” Ashton said at an EU summit.
Ashton had offered to relaunch the talks in Vienna in mid-November.
An informed source said Iran might prefer the talks to be held in Geneva. Dates would be between November 10 and 25, the source added.
The Iranian letter, seen by AFP, states however that Jalili “is prepared to resume the talks based on his letter of 6 July 2010” to Ashton.
Iran has always insisted the talks be held on the basis of its own proposals and foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast this week said there must be agreement on an agenda.
“While we do need to come to a conclusion on the date and place for the talks, the content of the negotiations should also be agreed by the two sides,” he said.
The talks would be the first high-level encounter between Iran and the so-called P5+1 that groups the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia since a round held October 1, 2009 in Geneva.
The nuclear negotiations aim to address international suspicion that Iran is seeking to develop atomic weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear programme, a charge Tehran vehemently denies.
Faced by the talks deadlock, the United Nations Security Council on June 9 reinforced international economic sanctions, with the United States and EU taking separate measures — all of which Tehran brushed off as having no impact.
Sanctions notably ban investments in oil, gas and petrochemicals while also targeting banks, insurance, financial transactions and shipping.
Friday’s long-awaited response from Tehran comes a day after the US warned Iran’s continued uranium enrichment meant any new offer by world powers on its nuclear programme would be more burdensome than one it had already rejected.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday that increased expectations required for any deal reflected the fact that Iran’s enriched uranium stocks were now larger than they were when previous talks broke down last year.
“Based on the unilateral actions that they took, they have increased their enrichment,” Gibbs said.
“In order to live up to the responsibilities that they have made and to lift any sanctions, they would have great responsibilities,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs spoke after the New York Times reported that the Obama administration and its European allies were preparing a new, more onerous offer for Iran than the one rejected by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last year.
The offer would require Iran to send more than 4,400 pounds of (1,995 kilograms) of low-enriched uranium out of the country, an increase of more than two-thirds from the amount required under a deal struck in Vienna.