Will not halt nuclear enrichment, says Iran

With both sides downplaying expectations of a breakthrough, Iran has said that its first round of talks in Istanbul with the global powers on Friday morning had been held in a “positive atmosphere”.

In a symbolic assertion, Saeed Jalili, the leader of the Iranian delegation and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu participated in the afternoon Friday prayers, Iran's state-run Press TV reported.

European Union foreign policy chief Catharine Ashton is leading a delegation, which has representatives from the United States, Russia, China, Britain France and Germany. The two-day talks are expected to end on Saturday. Earlier, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Washington was “not expecting any big breakthroughs”.

He said the objective was to launch a “constructive process” which would see Iran “engaging and addressing the international community's concerns about its nuclear programme”.

On their part, the Iranians have said that they were inclined to cover a broader international political agenda, rather than go into the nitty-gritty of their nuclear programme. Nevertheless, analysts say that a possible nuclear fuel swap deal could be covered in some depth during the current round of talks. The Tehran declaration of May 2010, which followed active mediation by Turkey and Brazil, contains the broad parameters of a nuclear deal involving the transfers abroad of Iran's lightly enriched uranium stocks, in return for 20 per cent enriched nuclear fuel rods required to run a Tehran medical reactor.

In a related development, Ali-Asghar Soltanieh, the Iranian representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) asserted on the eve of Istanbul talks that Iran would not halt nuclear enrichment, as demanded by the six global powers.

Addressing a press conference on Thursday in Moscow, Mr. Soltanieh said: “We will not implement the U.N. Security Council resolutions under any condition and will not halt the enrichment process even for a single moment.”

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