Iran says ball in major powers' court on nuke talks

by Farhad Pouladi, Agence France-Presse

Posted at May 17 2011 07:21 PM | Updated as of May 18 2011 03:21 AM

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran said on Tuesday that the ball was in the court of the six major powers that have been trying to resolve concerns over Tehran's nuclear program after it expressed readiness for new talks.

"Our talks with the 5+1 depends on the other side, we've announced our readiness," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, referring to the five veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany.

"The condition for the talks has been outlined by our negotiating team. It will be about the common points," Mehmanparast added, without elaborating on what they were.

While the six powers want to focus on the Iranian nuclear program, Tehran wants to expand the discussions to issues such as global security and nuclear disarmament, Israel's undeclared but widely suspected nuclear arsenal and the right of all countries to civil nuclear cooperation.

"Our stance has been defined by Dr. (Saeed) Jalili to Catherine Ashton. Any time they are ready, we are ready to continue," Mehmanparast said, referring to Iran's top nuclear negotiator and the European Union's top diplomat, who represents the powers in the talks.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sunday that Iran was "ready for a dialogue" with the powers on the nuclear issue and hoped that future meetings would yield results.

In a letter to Ashton earlier this month, Iran reprised its conditions for a resumption of talks.

Last week, a spokeswoman for Ashton said that Iran's letter "does not contain anything new and does not seem to justify a further meeting."

The two sides met in Geneva in December and in Istanbul in January but both meetings ended without progress.

The major powers are seeking to allay suspicions that Iran's nuclear program is cover for a drive for an atomic bomb, an ambition Tehran strongly denies.

Mehmanparast denied a report published by UN investigators earlier this month that concluded that sanctions were slowing Iran's nuclear program.

"Our nuclear activities have not slowed down... Iran will continue with its peaceful nuclear activities to meet its demands," Mehmanparast said.

"The programme is going according to the schedule, as (International Atomic Energy) Agency inspectors and cameras monitor the activities."

The UN Security Council has passed four sets of sanctions against Iran over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, the sensitive process that lies at the heart of Western concerns.

A panel of experts that monitors the sanctions said Iran was circumventing them but that its nuclear work had been impaired.

The sanctions are "slowing Iran's nuclear program but are not yet having an impact on the decision calculus of its leadership with respect to halting uranium enrichment and heavy-water-related activities," the panel said.