World powers asked for delay in nuclear talks: Iran

January 26, 2013 - 2:00:01 pm
TEHRAN: Iran on Saturday blamed world powers for delays in long-stalled talks over its controversial nuclear programme, after Western diplomats said Iranian uncertainty over the venue had delayed the negotiations.

State broadcaster IRIB said the world powers asked Iran to postpone the talks from agreed dates in January to February, through deputy EU foreign policy chief Helga Schmid who spoke to Iran's deputy nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri late on Friday.

World powers "are not ready to hold the negotiation in January," IRIB quoted Schmid at telling Bagheri by telephone. "She suggested a new date in February."

But "Bagheri stressed that Iran is ready to hold the talks, asking the other party to remain committed to the date agreed for talks in January," it added.

Schmid's boss, Catherine Ashton, represents the so-called P5+1 group of the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France plus Germany in talks on Iran's nuclear ambitions which Western nations suspect is aimed at developing the bomb.

Tehran denies the charge, saying its nuclear ambitions are entirely peaceful.

The two sides had reportedly agreed to renew the negotiations at the end of January, but they have failed to agree on a venue.

European diplomats on Friday voiced disappointment that "there was still no meeting."

A European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that "it seems more likely now that the next round will take place in February."

The last high-level talks attended by Iran, which ended without breakthrough, were in Moscow in June, with Tehran rejecting P5+1 calls for it to scale back its nuclear programme and asking for relief from sanctions that began to bite in 2012.

Iran said this week that Cairo has welcomed Tehran's suggestion that the Egyptian capital host the talks.

A spokeswoman for Ashton, Maja Kocijancic, said on Friday that contacts on when and where the next talks will be held "are still taking place."

Israel, the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear weapons state, has refused to rule out taking military action against Iran to prevent it from also acquiring the bomb. (AFP)