By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Tehran has agreed to hold a fresh round of nuclear talks with world powers in Istanbul on April 14. The talks with the P5+1 — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States — are aimed at resolving the standoff over Iran’s disputed nuclear activities.
Iran had initially agreed to talks in Istanbul but later reneged over Turkey’s support for the opposition in Syria — an Iranian ally. Iranian officials suggested Baghdad instead.
But on Monday, a statement from Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said that a first round of talks will be held in Istanbul on April 14. The statement said if those talks proved fruitful, a second round could be held in Baghdad later.
Iran says its nuclear activities are peaceful, but Western countries accuse it of secretly pursuing a nuclear weapons program.
Ahead of the talks, however, Iranian officials appear to be sending mixed signals.
The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Fereydoun Abbasi, suggested Monday that the Islamic republic might be ready to make a modest compromise regarding its uranium enrichment activities, which are at the core of the dispute with the West.
Abbasi was quoted as saying that Tehran could stop production of 20 percent enriched uranium needed for a research reactor, and continue enriching uranium to lower levels needed for power generation.
This could take place once Iran has stockpiled enough of the 20 percent enriched uranium, Abbasi told state TV, according to a report by the Associated Press.
On Monday, however, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi ruled out any preconditions ahead of the nuclear talks.
“Setting conditions before the meeting means drawing conclusions, which is completely meaningless and none of the parties will accept conditions set before the talks,” Salehi was quoted as saying by Iranian media.
Quoting unnamed U.S. and E.U. officials, the “New York Times” reported over the weekend that dismantling the Fordo nuclear facility — which was built under a mountain near the holy city of Qom — and stopping production of uranium fuel considered just a few steps away from bomb grade, are priorities in the upcoming talks.
Salehi said the Iranian negotiating team would ignore those reports and defend its position during negotiations.