Iran nuclear talks get underway in Baghdad

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Baghdad__Iran nuclear talks have gotten underway in Baghdad.

“Good body language, a good routine has set in,” one official told Al Monitor about 90 minutes after diplomats from six nations and Iran went into a plenary meeting.

The top international negotiator, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, is presenting a detailed proposal on behalf of the P5+1 group. The proposal is focused on a confidence building measure that aims to curb Iran’s higher level 20% uranium enrichment, diplomats said.

The proposal includes “confidence building measures that can begin to pave the way for Iran to demonstrate that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and for it to comply with UNSC resolutions,” a western official said.

“This approach includes concrete, step-by-step, reciprocal measures aimed at near term action,” he said. “We are looking to have detailed and serious discussions in Baghdad that strive to make progress towards these concrete steps.”

Iran seemed unlikely to either accept or reject the proposal outright at this meeting.

Western diplomats have indicated that if the Iranians show a constructive response to the proposal, they would like to propose that the parties meet more frequently in a single location, in order to advance a possible accord. Diplomats have suggested that such meetings could occur every few weeks–not always with all the rigamarole of the last few rounds of high-stakes talks in Istanbul and Baghdad. For instance, a regular meeting spot in Geneva could sometimes bring together technical experts, middle level diplomats, for a process that could take months and is envisioned to be implemented over several steps, they suggested.

It was as yet unclear Wednesday if the talks would continue for a second day.

“What happened in Istanbul was positive,” Michael Mann, spokesman for Ashton, told journalists shortly after the plenary talks had begun Wednesday.

“I can’t express optimism [about this meeting in Baghdad] til we hear the response from the Iranians to our proposal.”

“Key now for a detailed dialogue and tangible results,” the first official said.

Diplomats have said they will make public their proposal in the next day or two.

Al Monitor reported Tuesday on some of the elements of the proposal.

“The United States and its P5+1 partners will offer fuel for Tehran’s Research Reactor (TRR) plus safety upgrades to the plant, which is of 1960s vintage,” Al Monitor reported. “Also potentially on the table: new research reactors that use lower level 3.5 percent enriched uranium, safety upgrades for Iran’s one functioning nuclear power plant at Bushehr and spare parts for its accident-plagued fleet of civilian airliners.”

“In return, Iran must stop producing uranium enriched to 20 percent and halt activities at Fordow, an enrichment facility built into a mountain near Qom. It is not clear whether Iran would also have to send out its stockpile of more than 100 kg of the fuel.”

Ahead of the meeting, Iran’s foreign minister urged the West to show good will.

“Their policies of pressure and intimidation are futile,” Ali Akbar Salehi said at a Tehran news conference Wednesday, Reuters reported. “They have to adopt policies to show goodwill to solve this issue.”

“The ideas fielded to us speak of the fact that the other side would like to make Baghdad a success. We hope that in a day or two we can bring good news.”

(Photo: IRNA: International negotiator Catherine Ashton and Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili meet in Baghdad May 23, 2012: IRNA.IR).