New talks on Iran’s nuclear program
ALMATY, Kazakhstan (CNN) — Representatives from six world powers and Iran returned to the negotiating table Friday in Kazakhstan for fresh talks aimed at breaking the deadlock over Iran’s controversial nuclear program.
When negotiators from the six-nation diplomatic bloc last sat down with Iran’s envoy in the Kazakh city of Almaty in February, they delivered what they characterized as a “fair and balanced offer” to defuse tensions over the Iranian nuclear program.
“We are waiting to see how Iran responds to the proposal we put on the table,” Michael Mann, a European Union spokesman, told journalists shortly after negotiations resumed on Friday.
Details of the offer from the six governments have not yet been made public. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton described it as a “very clear and concise proposal” for confidence building measures.
Last March, technical experts from Iran and the so-called “P5+1” countries, which consist of the United States, France, Britain, Germany, China and Russia, met for more than 12 hours in Istanbul to discuss the proposal.
The P5+1 governments are demanding that Iran come clean about its nuclear program, which they suspect includes covert development of nuclear weapons.
Iran consistently denies those charges, arguing it is only enriching uranium and building nuclear reactors for peaceful civilian energy needs.
But those arguments have failed to prevent Western governments from imposing draconian sanctions that are crippling the Iranian economy. Oil exports have plummeted over the last several years, as has the value of Iran’s currency.
Washington has vowed it will continue to put pressure on Tehran.
“As long as Iran does not take concrete steps to address the concerns of the international community about its nuclear program, the dual-track process continues. And that pressure only will increase if Iran does not begin to take concrete steps and concrete actions,” said a senior US administration official in a telephone briefing to journalists this week. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.
Iran argues that as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, development of nuclear technology is an inalienable right.
On the eve of the talks in Kazakhstan, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, repeated this position in a speech given at a university in Almaty.
“It is the right of the Iranian people to peaceful nuclear energy and most importantly to enrichment,” Jalili said.
This article was written by CNN’s Ivan Watson. TM & © 2012 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.