Iran has begun talks in Geneva with the six world powers in an atmosphere sullied by the recent assassination in the Iranian capital of a senior Iranian atomic scientist and Tehran's announcement on the eve of the talks that it had deepened its self-reliance in uranium enrichment.

In a statement released ahead of the conference, Iran's top negotiator at the Geneva talks, Saeed Jalili said the Security Council  “must be held accountable before the international community” in connection with the November 29 assassination of nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari. Iran's state-run Press TV quoted Mr. Jalili as saying “inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have announced the names of [Iranian] scientists and the U.N. Security Council has listed them in its [sanctions] resolutions”. This had undermined their security. Iran is holding talks with the representatives of the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany.

Prior to the conference, Iranian President Ahmadinejad alleged an American hand in targeting its nuclear scientists. “Americans are worse than the most dictatorial dictators,” Reuters quoted him as saying. “They assassinate nuclear scientists because they are not strong enough to counter the Iranian nation, and think a nation will step back with the assassination of its loved ones.”

Terror act

Mr. Jalili told his interlocutor, Catherine Ashton, the foreign policy head of the EU representing the global powers, that the assassination waa “terror act”. The Associated Press quoting an unnamed official reported that the first hour at the talks was taken up by the six powers making a case for why they thought Iran's nuclear programme needed to be discussed.

Iranian officials have said that they will not discuss the nuclear issue during this round. They say discussions on the possible nuclear swap — the export of lightly enriched uranium in return for fuel for the Tehran medical reactor — will be separately discussed with the Vienna Group, comprising Russia, France and the U.S.