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Iran Nuclear Talks Start In Istanbul

April 14, 2012

EU officials say that talks between Iran and six world powers in Istanbul on Tehran's nuclear program have begun in a "positive atmosphere."

The talks come against a backdrop of mounting international sanctions against Iran and speculation that Israel could launch military strikes on Iranian nuclear sites to prevent Tehran from obtaining atomic arms, which a number of governments suspect is their aim.

"There is a desire for substantive progress," Michael Mann, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said, adding that "there is no disagreement yet."

"There was a good, friendly atmosphere, and it went on for three hours, which nobody expected," Mann said. He said "the idea was to establish a good working relationship and that was achieved, so we will see what actually comes out of that now in the talks."

He added that the meeting was "totally different" from a failed effort in January 2011.

The talks, the first in 15 months, are seen as a chance for Iran and the "P5+1" negotiating group to seek a way out of years of deadlock over suspicions that Iran is using its nuclear power program for developing nuclear weapons or a weapons capability.

The "P5+1" comprises the five permanent members of the UN Security Council members -- Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States -- plus Germany.

The United States and European Union have already imposed sanctions on Iran, and the EU is set to place further sanctions on Iranian oil imports this summer over Tehran's failure to cooperate with UN demand for more information on the program.

The UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), last year accused Iran of carrying out work "specific to making weapons" and has been frustrated in its efforts to get Tehran to demonstrate that such work is not ongoing.

Iran insists its nuclear program is intended for civilian power use.

Western officials have demanded ahead of the talks that Iran negotiate in good faith. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a statement issued in Berlin, that "the time for tactical games is long over." He also predicted the talks would be "anything but easy."

Asked if there is any certainty of progress at the Istanbul talks, EU spokesman Mann said as the interlocutors gathered that "It depends on what happens." He added that if there is a certain extent of progress at the Istanbul talks, Western powers would opt to a second round.

"We are hopeful that there will be a willingness on both sides and a good atmosphere to have a substantial negotiations, and that we will be able to announce the second round of talks," Mann said. "But it will be based on something substantial. We are hoping to kick off a process here."

News agencies quoted diplomats at the talks as saying the two sides could have a new round of negotiations in May. Iran has insisted that any new round should take place in Baghdad.

Analysts suggested ahead of the meeting that there was little to hope for a breakthrough in Istanbul.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/iran_nuclear_talks_begin_istanbul/24547975.html

Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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