US cautiously optimistic ahead of P5+1 talk with Iran
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Last Updated: Thursday, April 04, 2013, 09:37
  
Washington: The second P5 plus talks in Almaty this weekend give an opportunity to Tehran to convince the international community on its alleged nuclear weapons program, a US official said, while maintaining that council is 'cautiously optimistic' on the results of the conference.

P5+1 represents the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council - the US, Britain, China, Russia, France (P5) and Germany - which are holding their second talks with Iranian officials in Almaty in less than two months. The first round was held on February 26-27 and the current round will be held on April 5-6.

"There are a number of ways that Almaty 2 could play out, but we certainly hope that what the Iranians have characterised as positive will produce concrete results," a senior US administration official told reporters yesterday.

EU High Representative Lady Ashton said earlier today that, as she always is, she is cautiously optimistic, but she also said that, to quote her, "I am also very clear that it is very important that we do get a response from Iran." So as she always is cautiously optimistic, but the onus is really on Iran to respond to the proposal and tell us where they stand, the official said.

As long as Iran does not take concrete steps to address the concerns of the international community about its nuclear program, the dual-track process continues. And that pressure only will increase if Iran does not begin to take concrete steps and concrete actions, he said.

Sanctions as well as the isolation Iran has created for itself continue to have their effect, and oil importers have continued to make reductions. The Iranians themselves, as you might have seen on Monday, have acknowledged some of the pain that they are facing, the official said, adding that the inflation over the past 12 months has increased to 31.5 percent and is trending upward by their own account.

Noting that it is impossible to predict the outcome of Almaty 2, but P5+1 will stay very engaged and be ready to take steps to move forward if Iran is prepared to engage seriously, the official said.

"If Iran is not prepared to engage seriously, if they act other than what their public rhetoric has been, we will need to evaluate what the next steps should be in this process," the official warned.

While there would be no change in the US red line, the official indicated some flexibility when it comes to negotiations."The President has said that he will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, and that is a fact. So that will not change. Our first confidence-building measure addresses three areas around up to 20 percent production that I've discussed in the past and mentioned on this call, and we aim to address all of those concerns," the official said.

"As to how we will negotiate, whether there is flexibility, we first need to hear Iran's response and then we will caucus among ourselves, have discussions. We have experts who are part of our delegations, of course, and we will respond appropriately," the senior administration official said.

If Iran engages substantively and in a concrete way and really engages in a negotiation, even if they all agreed today on the terms of an agreement, it would take time to put the agreement together because this is a highly technical agreement, he said.

"So it's going to take us some time under the best of circumstances, but because, as the President has said, we don't have an indefinite period of time, we cannot concern ourselves with anybody's election schedule, either ours or theirs. We must proceed to deal with this concern as quickly as possible," he said.

PTI


First Published: Thursday, April 04, 2013, 09:37


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