US, EU demand Iran return to nuclear talks

AP News
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Posted: May 17, 2011 12:10 PM
US,  EU demand Iran return to nuclear talks

The United States and the European Union demanded Tuesday that Iran return to international talks over its nuclear program and prove to the world that its atomic intentions are peaceful.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Iran must stop stalling and respond in good faith to invitations to discuss the nuclear matter with international negotiators. That's the same demand, and the same invitation, that negotiators have made for years. They have been unsuccessful in persuading Iran to openly discuss its atomic program, which the U.S. and its allies believe is a cover for nuclear weapons development.

"Iran has to meet its international obligations and negotiate seriously on the nuclear issue," Clinton told reporters after she and Ashton met at the State Department. "The burden remains on Iran to demonstrate it is prepared to end its stalling tactics, drop its unacceptable preconditions and start addressing the international community's concerns."

Ashton said she would seek clarification on Iran's latest written response to a proposal for talks, which she called disappointing.

"I had wished for a stronger and better letter from them to recognize that the offer on the table is an offer they should look at very carefully," she said. "I do urge Iran to think again and to consider coming back to the table."

According to confidential letters obtained by The Associated Press last week, Iran wants a new round of talks with six world powers to focus on a host of issues including its rights as a nation, and even high-seas piracy, instead of international fears that it's building a nuclear bomb.

The correspondence appeared certain to strengthen Western concerns that Iran is drawing out years of negotiations with procedural delays and rhetorical debates in order to gain time to enrich enough uranium to build a bomb _ an intention Iran denies.

Iranian state television channel said Tuesday that the government had accepted a proposal by the European Union on behalf of six powers for a new meeting, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said it would be held in Istanbul. But the EU said no such plans have been made.

The last round of talks in January ended in failure, and the correspondence between Ashton and chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili provided little cause for optimism.

Ashton's Feb. 11 letter said new talks need to focus on reducing fears about Iran's nuclear ambitions. Jalili's May 8 response evaded that request. Instead, it urged "respect for democracy and the rights of the people" as the basis for new negotiations.