Iran, US Call for Speeding up Nuclear Talks

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Published Monday, January 12, 2015

US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday he hopes to accelerate the progress of nuclear negotiations with Iran, as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif stated on Sunday that Iran and the US will explore ways to give impetus to the talks.

On Wednesday, Zarif and Kerry will confer ahead of a fresh round of negotiations between Iran and six world powers on settling their 12-year standoff over Tehran's nuclear program.

Lower-level negotiators on both sides will meet at the same venue on Thursday to iron out technical details ahead of negotiations on January 18 between Iran and the six powers grouped under "P5+1" – the United States, France,Germany, Russia, China and Britain.

Speaking at a Tehran news conference, Zarif said the purpose of the talks with Kerry "is to see if we can speed up and push the negotiations forward."

"We will see how useful it will turn out. We are constantly gauging the benefits," he told reporters, referring to recent dialogue with the United States after decades of hostility dating back to Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.

On Monday also Kerry told reporters, he will hold talks with his Iranian counterpart in Geneva hoping to "accelerate the process to make greater progress."

A third deadline of July 1 is looming for a deal on reining in Iran's suspect nuclear program and the top US diplomat said his bilateral talks also aimed at taking stock.

Following an interim accord in November 2013, two deadlines for a final deal have been missed.

Under the interim deal, Iran's stock of fissile material has been diluted from 20 percent enriched uranium to five percent in exchange for limited sanctions relief.

This would push back the "breakout capacity" to make an atomic weapon, which Iran denies pursuing.

Iran's atomic agency chief Ali Akbar Salehi insisted on Tehran's demands for increased uranium enrichment on Sunday, saying that within eight years the country would need 12 times more enriched uranium than at present.

Iran's level of uranium enrichment – the process that produces atomic fuel – has been a key stumbling block in reaching a deal with the P5+1 powers.

"We currently produce 2.5 tons but will need 30 tons eventually," Salehi was quoted as saying by official news agency IRNA.

He also stated that Iran has answered all of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) questions but Western countries were trying to “mix things up.”

“Western countries attached a political history to our country’s nuclear issue, while we answered all their 18 technical questions,” Ali Akbar Salehi said.

Salehi said the six countries have politicized the issue. “The P5+1 group has announced that there is still room for discussion on two questions. The IAEA has, however, almost accepted all the answers," he said.

The West suspects Tehran may be trying to develop a nuclear weapon capability.

Iran denies it is seeking a bomb and says its nuclear program is solely aimed at producing atomic energy to reduce the country's reliance on fossil fuels, requiring a massive increase in its ability to enrich uranium.

(AFP, Reuters, Anadolu, Al-Akhbar)

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