By George Jahn and John Heilprin, AP
GENEVA–Reflecting signs of progress at ongoing Iran nuclear talks, the country’s foreign minister said Wednesday that his country would meet again with six powers within weeks to further discuss ways to ease fears his Iran may want atomic arms.
Mohammad Javad Zarif’s posted his comments to Facebook as the U.S. and its negotiating partners were sitting with Iran for a closer look at what Tehran is describing as a possible breakthrough deal that could lessen suspicions about its nuclear goals and lead to the easing of sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Iran says it is not interested in getting the bomb. Its proposal Tuesday to the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany focused on their demands that uranium enrichment and other activities that could be used to make nuclear arms be stopped or reduced.
No details were made public. But comments from Western officials meeting with Iranian negotiators indicated interest in the proposal, described by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi as designed to allow Iran to leave the `’dark” path of international isolation.
Previous rounds have often been fitful and sporadic, reflecting the deadlock between the two sides. Zarif’s Facebook comments that negotiations will resume `’in a few weeks” strengthened expectations that some progress was being made. He said the follow-up will also be held in Geneva, the venue for the ongoing talks.
Zarif said the six powers welcomed Iran’s “new approach,” and urged reciprocity, calling on the powers to also show a “new attitude.”
Iran’s version of success is for painful international sanctions to be lifted in exchange for possible concessions it had been previously unwilling to consider, such as increased monitoring and scaling back of uranium enrichment — a potential path to nuclear arms and the centerpiece of the impasse with the West.
International talks designed to reduce fears that Iran may make such arms have been stalled for most of their 10-year history, with Tehran insisting it has no interest in weapons production, while resisting both enticements and sanctions designed to force it into ending uranium enrichment and other activities that could be used to make weapons.
But negotiations appear now to be driven by the new wind generated since reformist President Hassan Rouhani was elected in June.
Wednesday’s meeting started several hours late, as the six powers discussed further steps among themselves before the talks resumed for a closer look at the proposal.
Asked for details beyond broad outlines made public by the Iranians ahead of the talks, a member of one of the delegations at the table said the plan offered reductions in both the levels of uranium enrichment being conducted by Iran and the number of centrifuges doing the enrichment — a key demand of the six powers.
An Iranian official said any plan would be implemented in three stages lasting from six months to a year. Both men demanded anonymity because they were not allowed to discuss the confidential plan.
Iran’s state TV, which closely reflects government views, said Tehran offered to discuss uranium enrichment levels. The report also said Iran proposed adopting the additional protocols of the U.N.’s nuclear treaty — effectively opening its nuclear facilities to wider inspection and monitoring — if the West recognizes Iran’s right to enrich uranium.
But the Iranian official said any acceptance of the protocols would be one of the last steps in implementing the plan.