Powers wait to hear Iran response to nuclear offer

Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:13pm EST
 
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By Justyna Pawlak and Fredrik Dahl

ALMATY (Reuters) - World powers hope Iran will respond positively on Wednesday to their new offer to lift some sanctions if Tehran scales back nuclear activity the West fears could be used to build bombs.

The United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia presented the offer when their first meeting with Iran in eight months began in Almaty on Tuesday and the Islamic state was considering it, the powers' spokesman said.

Western officials described the first day of talks as "useful". One said Iran discussed specific aspects of the powers' ideas in bilateral talks with three of them - Russia, Germany and Britain - but gave no indication how Tehran viewed them.

Iranian state television described the atmosphere in the discussions as "very serious".

The outcome of the two-day meeting in the Kazakh city will be closely watched in Israel, which has strongly hinted that it could attack Iran's nuclear sites if diplomacy and sanctions fail to stop the uranium enrichment program.

Iran says Israel's assumed nuclear arsenal is the main threat to peace and denies Western allegations it is seeking to develop the capability to make atomic bombs. It says it is only aiming to produce nuclear energy so that it can export more oil.

In their latest attempt to break years of deadlock in the dispute, the powers are offering Iran a relaxation of some of the sanctions that are taking a heavy toll on its economy.

"Hopefully the Iranians will be able to reflect overnight and will come back and view our proposal positively," the spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the powers in the talks, said.   Continued...

 
Members of the Iranian delegation, led by Supreme National Security Council Secretary and chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili (3rd L), sit at a table during talks in Almaty February 26, 2013. World powers began talks with Iran on its nuclear programme in the Kazakh city of Almaty on Tuesday, in a fresh attempt to resolve a decade-old standoff that threatens the Middle East with a new war. REUTERS/Ilyas Omarov/Pool