Iran Hopes for Progress withU.S. Presence in Geneva

On Friday, Iran hoped that the first-time presence of the United States in talks about its nuclear program would move things forward this weekend in Geneva, after five years of impasse.

The Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, declared that the participation of a highly ranked American in international discussions expected on Saturday was “positive,” and that he is expecting progress.

The presence of the third-highest ranking person from the State Department, the under-Secretary William Burns, marks a change in policy on the part of Washington, which had previously made all direct negotiations with Tehran dependent on the suspension of its uranium enrichment activities, which are thought to serve secret military ambitions. It is a matter of “a new positive approach,” declared Mr. Mottaki during a visit to Ankara. “I hope that this progress will also be reflected in the content of the discussions,” indicated the Iranian minister. “If the negotiations continue as such, I hope that we will have a positive result,” he said.

The Iranians responsible for the nuclear program have continued to insist on the fact that they would not forgo the production of nuclear energy in the framework of a program which they present as strictly civilian, and have demanded that the interlocutors of these discussions abandon “previous warnings” and “threats.” The principal Iranian negotiator, Saïd Jalili, who is also expecting a positive outcome from the Geneva negotiations, affirms that this will depend on a change of policy on the part of the United States, a country with whom Iran has not maintained diplomatic relations since 1980. “What matters to us is knowing with which approach they will participate in the discussions. If it is with a constructive approach, and if they abstain from the errors of the past, then it is certain that we will have constructive discussions,” he said before his departure for Geneva.

There, Mr. Jalili should meet with the head of European Union, Javier Solana, to discuss an offer from the six great powers. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council, (United States, China, Russia, Great Britain and France) and Germany, proposed greater diplomatic and economic cooperation with Iran in June, in exchange for suspension of their sensitive nuclear activities. Tehran has made its response known since the beginning of July, but Mr. Solana thought it to be complicated and wanted to get some clarification on Saturday. Mr. Jalili added that the talks would bring out the “common points” between the offer of the Six and a parallel offer from Iran, as well as for the definition of the format of future negotiations.

During a preparatory phase for these negotiations, Tehran would freeze its enrichment activities while the Six would refrain from adopting new sanctions, according to the diplomats. The leader of Friday’s prayers in Tehran also assured that his country would prove its good intentions in Geneva if the interlocutors of these discussions would adopt the same attitude.

“We think that the discussions are taking place in a context of good intentions, so the Islamic Republic of Iran will show evidence of good intentions and the discussions will produce results,” said the Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami. But he warned that, if the United States or Israel, “exerted their influence on the discussions as in the past, they will be fruitless.” In this relatively optimistic context, Mr. Mottaki has also declared that, “the discussions and an agreement to an American office in Iran, and direct flights between Iran and the United States, are possible,” in Geneva.

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