TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran is ready to resolve all of its nuclear disputes “quickly and easily” in a second round of talks with world powers planned for next month in Baghdad, the country’s foreign minister said Monday.
Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted by the semiofficial ISNA news agency as saying that Iran might be more flexible if it could be guaranteed an external supply of enriched uranium — an apparent endorsement of a U.S. compromise proposal.
Iran’s homegrown enrichment program is one of its main points of contention with the West.
The minister also urged Western countries to move toward lifting sanctions on the Islamic Republic, calling this a “trust-building” measure that could speed up negotiations.
But the US and European Union both said there would be no easing of sanctions on Tehran ahead of a second round of talks.
“I think it would be very dangerous to create a situation where we say to Iranians we might lift part of the sanctions,” Danish Foreign Minister Villy Sovndal told reporters, according to Reuters. Denmark currently holds the EU presidency.
Speaking from Brazil, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US would maintain tough sanctions on Tehran.
Salehi’s statements appear to signal flexibility after Saturday talks in Istanbul with world powers over Iran’scontroversial nuclear activities. Both sides hailed the talks as positive and a new round was scheduled in the capital of Iran’s ally, Iraq.
“We are ready to solve all issues very quick and easily, even in the Baghdad talks, if there is goodwill,” Salehi said.
“It is possible to discuss in the talks percentages of uranium enrichment,” said Salehi. “If they guarantee supplying us with fuel of various enriched levels, the case will be different.”
Iran currently enriches uranium to 20 percent levels, which is of concern to the West because the fuel can then be more quickly upgraded to 90 percent weapons-grade levels. Iran says the enriched uranium, along with its entire nuclear program, is for peaceful purposes such as research and cancer treatment.
Iran also produces lower-enriched fuel for its lone power reactor.
Prior to the talks in Istanbul with the five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany, Tehran offered to scale back uranium enrichment but not abandon the ability to make nuclear fuel.
At the same time, however, it ignored another Western concern — Iran’s existing stockpile. The West wants Iran’s current stores of 20 percent-enriched uranium to be transferred out of the country.
Salehi said that Iran would continue its uranium enrichment, which it says is compliant with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but did say that it was open to negotiation.
In the meantime, he urged the West to start taking steps to lift sanctions imposed by the U.S. and the EU over Iran’s nuclear activities, which he said could speed up negotiations.
“The West should begin trust-building in the field of sanctions,” said Salehi, but added that lifting them could take a long time.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.