Istanbul: Iran`s delegation to crunch talks
with world powers on its nuclear programme on Saturday turned down a
US request for what would have been a rare bilateral meeting
on the sidelines, a source said.
"Their request was presented numerous times but Iran has
refused," said the source close to the Islamic republic`s team
at the talks with six world powers in Istanbul, which
diplomats said were nonetheless going well.
Earlier diplomats at the talks had said that the US
delegation led by Wendy Sherman, undersecretary for political
affairs, had let Iran know she was ready for face-to-face
discussions with her counterpart Saeed Jalili.
The message was passed to the Iranians by Catherine
Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, on the sidelines of the
discussions between Iran and the United States, China, Russia,
Britain, France and Germany, envoys said.
The last time that the US and Iran held bilateral talks
about the nuclear issue was on the sidelines of a similar
meeting in Geneva on October 1, 2009, when William Burns, the
senior official leading Washington`s delegation, met Jalili.
Despite the refusal, diplomats said that a positive new
Iranian attitude in Istanbul raised the prospect for a second
round of more in-depth discussions, with one envoy saying this
should take place in less than four weeks.
Western powers suspect Iran`s nuclear programme is a
cover for a secret atomic weapons drive, a charge Tehran
vigorously denies. The UN Security Council has passed four
rounds of sanctions on the country.
The main concern of the international community,
particularly for Iran`s arch foe Israel, is Tehran`s growing
capacity to enrich uranium, which can be used for peaceful
uses but when purified further for a nuclear weapon. (AFP)