Iran noncommittal about US talks



GEIR MOULSON | Associated Press

Published — Monday 4 February 2013

Last update 4 February 2013 5:22 am

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MUNICH: Iran’s foreign minister yesterday welcomed the United States’ willingness to hold direct talks with Tehran in the standoff over its nuclear program but didn’t commit to accepting the offer — insisting that Washington must show “fair and real” intentions to resolve the issue and complaining about “threatening rhetoric.”
Ali Akbar Salehi insisted that no Iranian “red line” is getting in the way of direct negotiations with Washington, but also pointed to deep mistrust between the two countries.
Salehi was speaking at the same international security conference where Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday said the United States was prepared talk directly to Iran. Biden insisted that Tehran must show it is serious and that Washington won’t engage in such talks merely “for the exercise.”
Meanwhile, talks involving all five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany have made little headway, while several rounds of international sanctions have cut into Iran’s oil sales and financial transactions.
The next round of talks with the six powers will be held Feb. 25 in Kazakhstan, Salehi told the Munich Security Conference.
He said Biden’s comments marked “a step forward,” but indicated getting the US and Iran together for one-to-one talks will be no easy task.
“We have no red line for bilateral negotiations when it comes to negotiating over a particular subject,” Salehi said. “If the subject is the nuclear file, yes, we are ready for negotiations but we have to make sure ... that the other side this time comes with authentic intention, with a fair and real intention to resolve the issue.”
Salehi said it was “contradictory” if the US voices willingness to hold direct talks “but on the other side you use this threatening rhetoric that everything is on the table ... these are not compatible with each other.”
“We are ready for engagement only when it is on equal footing,” he said.
Last month Iran, in a defiant move, announced plans to vastly increase its pace of uranium enrichment. That can be used to make both reactor fuel and the fissile core of warheads.
Vali Nasr, dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, sounded a skeptical note about direct Iran-US talks any time soon.

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