Iran seeks ‘positive’ talks with EU at nuclear meeting

TEHRAN (AP) — Iran wants this week’s talks with the European Union over its nuclear programme to be “positive,” but the almost four-month break in negotiations means the results are uncertain, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator said Monday.
Arab Gulf leaders also called for a weapons of mass destruction-free Mideast and urged closer Iranian-UN cooperation over the Persian state’s contentious nuclear programme, but failed to join the United States in rebuking Tehran.

Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of the Atomic Organisation of Iran, also said his country is considering new proposals — so far not released — to put to the European negotiators at the talks that start Wednesday in Vienna, Austria.

Europe hopes the talks will lead to Iran ensuring its nuclear programme cannot produce weapons. Negotiations broke off in August after Tehran restarted uranium conversion, a precursor to enrichment.

“There has been a long time gap, so the results cannot be clearly predicted,” Aghazadeh was quoted by Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency as saying. “But we will try (conduct) the talks so they have a positive trend.” Uranium enrichment can produce material for use in warheads or fuel for nuclear plants to generate electricity. Iran, one of the world’s largest oil producers, maintains its programme is for producing power and not making atomic bombs, despite US claims to the contrary.

Iran’s negotiation team in the EU talks Vienna will be headed by Javad Vaidi, a high-ranking official handling international affairs for the Supreme National Security Council, a powerful body handling Iran’s nuclear negotiations with Europe.

“Iran will be more decisive than before in the talks,” state TV quoted Ali Larijani, Irans top nuclear negotiator, as saying without elaborating.

Iran has stressed that will not give up its right to enrichment, saying it is able to do so under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Iran voluntarily halted enrichment in November 2004 as a goodwill gesture to the Europeans.

The United States has been pressing for Iran to be referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions over its nuclear programme.

Arab Gulf leaders, many holding close ties with the United States, on Monday opted against demanding action from Iran over its nuclear programme and instead called for increased cooperation between Tehran and the UN’s nuclear watchdog.

The leaders hoped for “progress in cooperation between Iran and the (UN) International Atomic Energy Agency,” according to a closing statement issued at the end of two-day summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a loose economic and political alliance comprising Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the Emirates.

The statement also urged Israel to join the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and open its nuclear facilities to inspectors. Israel is thought to harbour several hundred nuclear warheads, but has a policy of not confirming its nuclear arsenal.

Analysts have said Iran’s increasing confrontation with the West over its nuclear ambitions may have worried Arab Gulf leaders. The tensions have been exacerbated recently by anti-Israel comments by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But Gulf leaders have said very little about Iran’s nuclear activities.

An Emirates-based government-run think tank, however, said Gulf states have a right to be “genuinely concerned about the implications of the Iranian nuclear programme.” They also warned against maintaining “silence” over the issue “because the Gulf states will pay the price for any escalation between Iran and the West.” “The Iranian messages aiming at pacifying the Gulf states have become ineffective,” the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research said in a statement.

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