Killing of Iranian Scientist Overshadows 6-Nation Nuclear Talks

Monday, 06 Dec 2010 07:46 PM

 

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Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. and European diplomats resume a second round of talks with Iran today, seeking to shift the focus to the Persian Gulf nation’s nuclear program instead of the death of one of its scientist during a bombing.

Iran used yesterday’s meeting in Geneva with the so-called P5+1 -- China, France, Russia, the U.S., the U.K. and Germany -- to talk about the Nov. 29 bombing in Tehran that killed an Iranian nuclear scientist. Iran has blamed foreign agents for the bombing.

“It’s difficult to see how to get out of this spiral,” Ivan Oelrich, senior fellow at the Washington-based Federation of American Scientists, said in a telephone call from New Orleans. “They have good reason to be suspicious of our intentions.”

The two-day meeting is the latest bid to avert a clash with Iran, holder of the world’s second-biggest oil and natural gas reserves, over its nuclear program. Instead, Iran’s envoy to the Geneva talks, Saeed Jalili, opened the session by condemning the killing of physicist Majid Shahriari, state-run Mehr news agency reported, citing an unidentified Iranian official in Geneva.

“We believe some of the secret foreign services have been involved,” Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters in Athens yesterday. “Those who think murders and military violence can destroy nuclear technology have made a big mistake.”

The U.S. has said it wasn’t involved, while Israel and the U.K. have declined to comment.

Trust

“Trust is going to take a long time to develop, and they’re not going to come out of this meeting with an agreement,” Paul Ingram, executive director of the British American Security Information Council, a London-based policy advisory group, said yesterday by telephone. “There is an increased willingness now to discuss real issues.”

The U.S. and European countries accuse Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is designed to generate electricity for a growing population.

The goal of the talks is to find a way for the P5+1 -- the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany -- to build momentum for further negotiations, say past and present diplomats from countries participating. An immediate breakthrough isn’t likely, they say.

President Barack Obama called his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, on Dec. 5 to stress “the importance of P5+1 unity” at the talks, the White House said yesterday in a statement. Iran’s deputy secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Bagheri, met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Dec. 5 in Geneva, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Tense Atmosphere

Tensions may mount further after Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s atomic energy agency, said Dec. 5 that the country had achieved self-sufficiency in producing yellow cake -- uranium in its raw form -- as part of its nuclear program. He made the announcement on the state-run Press TV channel.

Negotiators will need to split into groups to discuss the issues separating the sides, Richard Dalton, a former British ambassador to Iran who consults with the London-based Chatham House policy-advisory group, said in a telephone interview.

The P5+1 group wants Iran to address concerns about the nuclear weapons allegations. Iran has sought to broaden the talks to include issues of regional security.

Iran wants to discuss a wide range of topics “related to international security and political and economic cooperation toward resolving global problems,” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Dec. 4, according to the state-run Fars news agency.

Building Confidence

“The objective is to engage Iran into a phased approach to confidence-building, which should lead to meaningful negotiations,” Ruediger Luedeking, Germany’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Dec. 2 in Vienna on behalf of the European powers participating in the talks.

The talks are the first since October 2009, when meetings included one-on-one discussions between Jalili and U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns. Jalili and Burns are the heads of their respective delegations at the meetings; European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is leading the P5+1 delegation.

Mottaki said on Dec. 1 that his government hopes for “serious” talks in Geneva and that Iran shouldn’t have to “compromise” its rights. UN sanctions have deprived the country of $60 billion in energy-related investment, according to U.S. estimates.

“There is still room for a renewed effort to break down mistrust and begin a careful, phased process of building confidence between Iran and the international community,” Burns told the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee at a Dec. 1 hearing. Negotiators will “look for ways in which we could build confidence in steps.”

--With assistance from Natalie Weeks in Athens, Ladane Nasseri in Tehran. Editors: Leon Mangasarian, Bob Drummond.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jonathan Tirone in Geneva at jtirone@bloomberg.net; Flavia Krause-Jackson in Washington at fjackson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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