TEHRAN, Iran — Proposals from both Iran and the group of six world powers will be on the table at the next round of talks in Moscow next week, not just the West’s demand to halt Iran’s highest level uranium enrichment, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator said today.
Saeed Jalili said the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, has agreed the negotiations will include Iranian proposals. The two days of talks are scheduled to begin Monday.
The talks take place against the background of indications from the Israelis and Americans of the possibility of a military strike against Iran. Both have said allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons is unacceptable. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
The six-nation bloc — the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany — have demanded Iran halt its 20 percent enrichment program and close down its underground Fordo nuclear site south of Tehran.
The U.S. and its allies say the 20 percent enrichment is just steps away from being boosted to weapons-grade material.
The West is offering Iran civilian plane spare parts and nuclear fuel in exchange for dropping its 20 percent enrichment program.
Jalili briefed Iran’s parliament about the upcoming talks, indicating that Iran does not see them has a simple negotiation over how much uranium enrichment Iran can carry out, if any.
“(Ashton) agreed that Iran’s five-point proposal is on the agenda for the Moscow discussions, even non-nuclear issues,” Jalili told an open session of parliament. “We will enter into the Moscow talks on this basis.”
Tehran insists that world powers must recognize its right to enrich uranium and have called for Western oil and banking sanctions to be lifted in exchange for concessions, but it has declared it will not stop enriching uranium. Besides the 20 percent levels, Iran also enriches uranium at 3.5 to 5 percent.
The 27-nation European Union plans to begin an embargo of Iranian oil July 1, cutting off about 18 percent of Iran’s oil exports.
The proposals were made in talks in Baghdad last month. The West has refused to accept Iran’s proposals, and Tehran finds the Western package too one-sided.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told a news conference in Tehran Wednesday that he was “optimistic” about the Moscow talks. Visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, a key ally, called for a diplomatic settlement of the Iranian nuclear standoff.
Lavrov and Salehi accused the West of sending weapons and forces to destabilize the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Iran’s closest Middle East ally, also backed strongly by Moscow. Lavrov said Russia will hold a conference on Syria soon with the participation of 15 countries, including Iran.