THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published — Thursday 24 January 2013
Last update 23 January 2013 9:26 pm
TEHRAN: Iran has proposed Cairo as a venue for restarting talks with the US and other world powers over its controversial nuclear program, the country’s foreign minister said yesterday.
Ali Akbar Salehi’s announcement was the latest indication of Tehran’s willingness to go back into the negotiations in hopes of wresting concessions from the West over stepped-up sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy.
Iran has also been trying to reach out to Egypt since the February 2011 fall of Hosni Mubarak, seeking to resume relations with the Arab state.
The Iranian foreign minister said Egypt has welcomed the Tehran offer and is now consulting about it with the six-nation group — the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. Iran “has suggested that the next meeting be held in Cairo. Egypt has welcomed the proposal,” Salehi told reporters after a Cabinet meeting yesterday.
“Egyptian officials are now consulting with the six-nation group ... a date and a venue have not been finalized yet,” Salehi said.
Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and the European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and their deputies have been in discussions in recent weeks to restart the talks after the last round ended in stalemate in Moscow last June. Since then, Western sanctions have been pressing hard on the Iranian economy.
The Moscow talks made no headway on the West’s main demand — that Iran halt its highest-level uranium enrichment, which Washington and others worry could quickly be turned into nuclear warhead-grade material.
Iran insists it does not seek nuclear arms — repeatedly citing a 2005 edict by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that called atomic weapons a violation of Islamic tenets — and says it only wants reactors for electricity and medical research.