Iran, EU waiting on each other for nuclear talks

AFP , Tuesday 3 Jan 2012

EU waits for Iran to answer foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton’s letter to prepare for the next meeting to discuss Tehran's disputed nuclear programme

Iran and the European Union each said Tuesday they were waiting on the other to take steps on resuming long-stalled negotiations over Tehran's disputed nuclear programme.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Iran is “waiting for a date and venue of the next meeting to be declared” by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who sent a letter last October proposing renewed talks.

But a spokesman for Ashton, Michael Mann, immediately shot back, telling AFP in Brussels that Iran "must first respond to the letter and then we'll take it from there."

Ashton wrote her letter on 21 October, 2011 to Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, offering to resume the negotiations that have been suspended since January 2011 as long as Tehran imposed no pre-conditions.

Although she has received no official reply from Tehran, Mehmanparast, in a briefing to reporters on Tuesday, said that "Iran has already given its response to Mrs Ashton."

"We are waiting for a date and venue of the next meeting to be declared by Mrs Ashton for negotiations between Iran and the 5+1 group," he said.

The 5+1 group comprises permanent UN Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus non-permanent member Germany. Ashton represents the group.

Mehmanparast said that when the EU meeting proposal is received, Iran's team of negotiators "will express their point of view and through contacts there will be a final agreement" between both sides on the talks.

But the EU spokesman said Iran's officials "are getting things the wrong way around."

First, they have to send their formal reply to Ashton's letter, he said.

"We wrote to them saying in broad terms, 'if you want to show that your nuclear programme is peaceful, then we are happy to listen to that and that will involve discussions'," Mann said.

"If their response is meaningful, then we will take it from there," he said.

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