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Iran open to talks over its ballistic missiles

In this Feb. 3, 2007 file photo, an Iranian technician works at the Uranium Conversion Facility just outside the city of Isfahan 255 miles south of the capital Tehran, Iran. (AP)
ANKARA/LONDON/WASHINGTON: Iran has suggested to six world powers that it may be open to talks about its ballistic missile arsenal, seeking to reduce tension over the disputed program, Iranian and Western officials familiar with the overtures told Reuters.
Tehran has repeatedly vowed to continue building up what it calls defensive missile capability in defiance of Western criticism, with Washington saying the Islamic Republic’s stance violates its 2015 nuclear deal with the powers.
But the sources said that given US President Donald Trump’s threats to ditch the deal reached under his predecessor Barack Obama, Tehran had approached the powers recently about possible talks on some “dimensions” of its missile program.
“During their meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last month, Iran told members of the (world powers) that it could discuss the missile program to remove concerns,” an Iranian source with knowledge of the meeting told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif met his counterparts from Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for the first time, on the fringes of the UN gathering on Sept. 20.
“The Americans expressed their worries about Iran’s missile capability and Zarif said in reply that the program could be discussed,” the Iranian source told Reuters.
US and Western officials did not confirm the matter was discussed at the Zarif-Tillerson meeting. But two US officials said Iran had recently been “keeping it alive” by feeding certain media reports and via third parties such as Oman.
A former US Defense Department official said Iran’s overtures had reached Washington in recent weeks.
“Iran has put feelers out saying it is willing to discuss its ballistic missile program and is using contacts ... officials who were ‘holdovers’ from the Obama administration,” the former official said.
A US official with first-hand knowledge of dealings with the Islamic Republic said Zarif had been recycling offers that “have been lying dormant on the table for some time.
“Zarif knows that if Trump goes ahead and decertifies Iran, it (Iran) will be on the high ground, and the US will be isolated among the (six powers),” the official said.

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