WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – Senior diplomats from six major powers held a conference call on Friday to discuss their efforts to persuade Iran via negotiations and sanctions to restrain its nuclear program, the U.S. State Department said.
“They discussed both tracks, both the pressure track and the (negotiating track),” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters, referring to the “dual track” policy of diplomacy and sanctions under which Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States aim to influence Tehran.
The West suspects Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has said the program is to generate electricity so that it can export more of its valuable oil and gas.
Earlier this week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his country was ready to send its low-enriched uranium to Russia and France for further purification into fuel to produce medical isotopes. Tehran had earlier annoyed Russia and the Western powers by rejecting such an offer.
Crowley said officials discussed those comments but stressed that Iran’s representative at the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, had not signaled any formal shift in Tehran’s position.
Beijing, which appeared to snub the others by sending a low-level representative to a meeting in New York last month, had its “assistant secretary for arms control,” take part in the call, Crowley said, saying the United States thought this was an appropriate representation.
Asked if the group had reached any agreement on fresh sanctions against Iran — something China has resisted — the U.S. spokesman said: “That wasn’t the intent of the call … they had a detailed discussion of where we are in the process and shared ideas on both tracks.”