Iran sends mixed signals as nuclear talks near
LONDON — A senior Iranian official hinted Monday that Iran would consider limits on its home-grown stockpile of enriched uranium, offering what seemed a modest compromise to partly meet Western concerns ahead of the planned resumption this week of nuclear talks with a group of six global powers.
The senior official, Ferydoon Abbasi, head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, was quoted by Iranian news agencies as saying that Iran was prepared to enrich uranium to a maximum 20 percent purity just to meet the needs for a medical research reactor.
Abbasi was further quoted as saying that other uranium enrichment activities would be restricted to much lower levels of purity needed to fuel power generation reactors.
But in what appeared to be another set of mixed signals from Iran ahead of the talks, another high-ranking figure, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, said Iran would not accept preconditions. Iranian news agencies quoted him as saying, “Setting conditions before the meeting means drawing conclusions, which is completely meaningless, and none of the parties will accept conditions set before the talks.”
The apparent difference in tone between the remarks of Abbasi and Salehi seemed to reflect continued debate among the Iranian elite over the handling of the planned negotiations. But it was not immediately clear whether the mixed signals represented a deliberate strategy.
The talks, taking place as Iran faces a tightening noose of economic sanctions that include a European oil embargo coming into force in July, are set to begin in Istanbul this week.
The reports followed days of confusing signals from Iran that at one stage looked like a derailing of the negotiations. Even Monday, disputes seemed to persist over the date, with the Iranian news media speaking of talks Friday and a European Union official saying they would take place Saturday. Other reports had said the talks, which would resume negotiations suspended in January 2011 after a deadlock, would span both days.
The talks bring together Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — along with Germany.
The reports followed days of confusing signals from Iran that at one stage looked like a derailing of the negotiations. Even Monday, disputes seemed to persist over the date, with the Iranian news media speaking of talks Friday and a European Union official saying they would take place Saturday.