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Iran ready to negotiate over nuclear programme ‘without preconditions,’ Annan says

Iran ready to negotiate over nuclear programme ‘without preconditions,’ Annan says

Kofi Annan
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Motaki has assured him his country will come to the negotiating table “without preconditions” in any talks on its nuclear programme – which it insists is for peaceful purposes, but which the United States and others see as a weapons threat.

“I hope it will give the sufficient answer before too long,” Mr. Annan told reporters in Geneva after meeting with the Iranian minister, referring to the offer of incentives by the five Permanent Security Council Members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the US) and Germany in return for Iran’s abandoning its uranium enrichment programme.

“Iran maintains that its interest in nuclear energy is purely for peaceful purposes, and I have stressed to Iranian leaders, including Mr. Motaki, that it is very much in their interest to convince the world of that by cooperating fully with IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency],” he added.

Despite years of inspections after the discovery in 2003 that Iran had concealed its nuclear activities for 18 years in breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the IAEA has said it still cannot conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear activities although it has not seen any diversion of materials to nuclear weapons.

But it has called on Iran to suspend all uranium enrichment, which can produce fuel for nuclear energy production or for making nuclear weapons. Iranian leaders have insisted on their right to enrichment.

Asked whether Mr. Motaki indicated that Iran might be prepared to give up enrichment, Mr. Annan replied: “Their point of view is that they are coming to the table without preconditions and that everything can be discussed at the table. That, I presume, includes the question of enrichment. They are considering the package very, very seriously.”

He was also asked if he thought the Washington should be more engaged in getting a diplomatic solution on the issue. “I think we saw a major shift in US policy when it indicated that it will be prepared to join the talks once the issue of the enrichment or its suspension thereof was resolved,” he replied.

“I hope that initial shift and signal will bear fruit as we move forward with the discussions with the Iranians, and that sooner or later – and rather sooner than later – we will see the US joining the talks.”

He also said he had discussed with Mr. Motaki the timing of the Iranian reply to the latest offer. “I don't think they will give an answer before the G-8 meeting in St. Petersburg,” he noted, referring to the meeting of the major industrial nations in Russia at the beginning of next month. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said the reply won’t be ready until late August.