Iran FM says new nuclear talks Feb. 25


Iran’s Foreign Minister said Sunday that nuclear talks with six world powers will resume in Kazakhstan on February 25th. Western diplomats welcomed the remarks, but said they were still waiting for official confirmation from Iran’s nuclear negotiating team.

Ali Akbar Salehi, addressing the Munich Security Conference, said he’d heard the “good news” that agreement on the new P5+1 meeting date and location had been reached the day before.

A spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said they hoped Salehi’s encouraging comments are soon officially confirmed by her formal counterpart on Iran’s nuclear negotiating team, Dr. Saeed Jalili, the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.

“Our latest proposal had indeed been Kazakhstan in the week of February 25 after other proposals had not worked,” Michael Mann, a spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said by email Sunday. “So it is good to hear that the Foreign Minister finally confirmed now. We hope the negotiating team will also confirm.”

“We aren’t fully there yet,” another western official cautioned Sunday, saying negotiators hope to lock in confirmation over the next day.

Iran’s foreign ministry does not take the lead in Iran nuclear negotiations, and Salehi has often presented a more conciliatory Iranian stance on the international stage.

Salehi also offered mild support for US Vice President Joe Biden’s comments asserting US willingness to hold direct talks with Iran, but was not committal about whether Iran would take up the offer.

Biden’s remarks were “a step forward,” Salehi said Sunday, the Associated Press reported.

“We have no red line for bilateral negotiations when it comes to negotiating over a particular subject,” Salehi contiued. “If the subject is the nuclear file, yes, we are ready for negotiations. But we have to make sure … that the other side this time comes with authentic intention, with a fair and real intention to resolve the issue.”

The Obama administration “made it clear at the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally with the Iranian leadership,” Biden told the Munich delegates Saturday, Reuters reported.

“That offer stands,” Biden continued, “but it must be real and tangible and there has to be an agenda that they are prepared to speak to.”

Republican Senator John McCain, also in Munich, said he had no objection to direct US-Iran talks, but cautioned that a breakthrough may still prove elusive. “I don’t think anyone here objects to that,” McCain told journalists in Munich Saturday. But “to have grounds for optimism, I think, would be a mistake.”

(Photo: Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, center, arrives for the Security Conference in Munich, Germany, on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013. He is speaking to former Congresswoman Jane Harman in the yellow jacket and that is former EU negotiator Javier Solana on his left. AP Photo/Matthias Schrader.)