Iran to make new offer on nuclear programme at talks in Geneva

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 October, 2013, 3:49am


Iranian nuclear negotiators will offer a new proposal today that is intended to convince world powers that the country's nuclear programme has only peaceful aims, a top official said.

The announcement came on Sunday from Abbas Araghchi, the deputy foreign minister and one of Iran's negotiators in the talks set to begin today in Geneva.

The shipping of materials out of the country is our red line
Abbas Araghchi, Iran negotiator

Araghchi told Iranian news media his team would present a three-step plan that would secure the independence of Iran's civilian nuclear programme while giving assurances that the country is not trying to assemble atomic weapons. "We need to move towards a trust-building road map with the Westerners," Araghchi said.

"To them, trust-building means taking some steps in the nuclear case and for us this happens when sanctions are lifted."

Iran's new president, Hassan Rowhani, has promised Iranians he will end the 10-year stand-off with the West over the nuclear programme.

The sanctions have seriously hit Iran's ability to sell oil and have cut the country off from the international banking system.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif posted a message on his personal Twitter account on Friday saying new proposals from Iran would be presented in Geneva today and not before.

Among the West's concerns that Iran seems prepared to address is its growing stockpile of uranium that has been enriched to 20 per cent - only a few technical steps away from being suitable for building weapons.

Iranian officials have suggested that the stockpile could be diluted to a lower level or be used to make relatively harmless fuel cells for a research reactor.

"Of course we will negotiate regarding the form, amount, and various levels of enrichment," Araghchi said.

But he seemed to dismiss a proposal raised by the West in earlier talks that some of Iran's nuclear material be sent abroad for reprocessing. "The shipping of materials out of the country is our red line," he said.

The fact that US Secretary of State John Kerry will most probably not be present at the talks in Geneva has disappointed some in Iran. This is especially so after the Iranians agreed during the UN General Assembly meeting in New York last month to engage in direct talks with the US, the country that has been the leader in imposing sanctions on Iran.

"If the world powers are serious, they must up the level of the talks to that of foreign ministers," Araghchi said.

Kerry said on Sunday that the window for diplomacy with Iran was "cracking open" following talks in London with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. "But I want you to know that our eyes are open, too," Kerry added.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse