Iran: No Strike While Nuclear Talks Continue

The round of nuclear talks between the six major world powers and Iran ended on Saturday in Istanbul without a significant breakthrough but with an agreement to reconvene next month. Sources close to the talks told Haaretz that the Iranians are demanding an American and European commitment not to carry out a military attack on their country as long as the talks continue.

Western and Turkish diplomats said Saturday’s meeting, which involved the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council - the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China - in addition to Germany and the Iranians, was held in a positive atmosphere.

“They met in a constructive atmosphere,” said Michael Mann, a spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, after the morning session of talks Saturday. “We had a positive feeling that they did want to engage.”

Iran’s ISNA news agency reported that an American envoy had asked for a meeting with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili and that Jalili had accepted, but another news agency, Fars, later denied that.

The Istanbul talks were the first such meeting for 15 months. A second round is scheduled to take place in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on May 23.

Expectations for the talks in Istanbul had been low at the outset. The United States termed them a last chance at a diplomatic solution to the crisis over the Iranian nuclear program. The U.S. and Israel have not ruled out military action to destroy Iran’s nuclear sites.

The major drama at the talks in Turkey was simply the fact that they took place, this time without prior conditions. In January last year, the Iranians refused to enter into discussions without a commitment to lift international sanctions against their country. For its part, the U.S. had refused at the time to discuss removing sanctions without a halt by the Iranians of their nuclear fuel enrichment operations.

This time around, among the details leaked from the conference hall was an indication that the world powers would agree to continued Iranian nuclear enrichment activities at the relatively low level of 3.5 percent, and would not require that the Fordo underground facility near the Iranian city of Qom be dismantled. The world powers would require continuous monitoring of nuclear fuel production sites, according to the leaks.

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Iran: No Strike While Nuclear Talks Continue

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