Image: Saeed Jalili
Vahid Salemi  /  AP
Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili called the slaying of the nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari, pictured on the lectern, a "disgrace" for the Security Council, claiming the attacks were linked to efforts to "implement" international sanctions.
updated 12/6/2010 8:09:11 PM ET 2010-12-07T01:09:11

Talks between Iran and six world powers recessed Monday with no sign that Tehran was ready to discuss U.N. Security Council calls to curb its nuclear activities that could be harnessed to make weapons, an official at the negotiations said.

While the two sides were scheduled to meet in a second session on Tuesday, the description of Monday's meeting by the official gave little reason to presume that Iran would relent and agree to talks specifically addressing the U.N Security Council demands.

That, in turn, would dash hopes of a renewed meeting in the new year. The U.S. and the allies have said coming into the talks that such new negotiations would hinge on Tehran agreeing at the present Geneva talks to focus on ultimately ending uranium enrichment and other activities that have sparked four sets of U.N. sanctions.

Delegates from Iran, the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany met at a conference center in Geneva, with talks beginning after European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton escorted Saeed Jalili, Iran's chief negotiator, into the session.

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Tehran says it does not want atomic arms and insists its nuclear program is only designed to provide more power for its growing population. Yet as Iran builds up its capacity to make such weapons, neither Israel nor the U.S. have ruled out military action if Tehran fails to heed U.N. Security Council demands that it freeze key nuclear programs.

"About 75 percent" of Monday's three-hour morning session was devoted to nuclear issues, said the official. That raised some hope because the Islamic Republic had come to the table insisting that the negotiations address Iran's nuclear program only peripherally — if at all. 

Story: Iran claims nuclear advance ahead of talks

Monday's afternoon talks ran 90 minutes past schedule. Jalili, the first to emerge, smiled at reporters but said nothing. Officials said a second round of talks would be held Tuesday as scheduled.

But the official said that — although the afternoon's plenary also was mostly taken up with nuclear issues — it was dominated by Jalili's complaints about past wrongs committed by the West against his country in the nuclear field, in statements reaching back in history to 1953.

That clearly fell short of hopes from the six that Iran would at least address the Security Council demands as a start to discussions on enrichment and related issues.

"Obviously we have not made progress on the substance," said the official who agreed to discuss the closed meeting on condition of anonymity. "Iran continues not to implement a series of demands of the U.N. Security Council. We want to talk about the ways and means of doing so."

Publicly Iran continued to insist that enrichment and related programs were not on the agenda.

"We can't put them up for negotiation," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said in Athens. "When all the countries say that they recognize Iran's right to develop peaceful nuclear technology, there is no room for such questions."

Ashton and senior officials from the six powers told Iran that doubts about the peaceful nature of its nuclear program were causing instability in the region, the official said.

Jalili spoke about other themes, including mentioning last week's assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist and the wounding of an associate, the official said.

Iran says Majid Shahriar, the scientist killed in the bombing, was involved in a major project with Iran's nuclear agency. The wounded scientist, Fereidoun Abbasi, is suspected by the U.N. of links to secret nuclear activities. Iran has accused the West and Israel of being behind the assault.

Iran's semi-official Fars news agency said the six powers had no clear agenda and were suffering from internal rifts.

The official, in contrast, described the six as remarkably united at presenting their position at the talks,

Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born expert on Iran who now lives in Israel, described the talks as serving both sides without either expecting a breakthrough.

"The Iranians are doing it for domestic cohesion between the conservative faction, which has been badly polarized," he said. "(It also) improves (Iran's) image and standing with its allies in Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq by portraying it as a regional superpower who can bring the five major powers of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany to the table."

He called the talks "very useful" for the West because they allowed President Barack Obama "to impose the toughest sanctions against Iran to date and to isolate Iran in an unprecedented manner."

Nations have a right to enrich uranium domestically and Iran insists it is doing so only to make fuel and not to make fissile warhead material. But international concerns are strong because Tehran developed its enrichment program clandestinely and because it refuses to cooperate with an IAEA probe following up suspicions that it experimented with a nuclear weapons program — something Iran denies.

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Bilateral sessions filled up much of Monday's afternoon talks, but officials refused to say whether they included one between Jalili and U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns and their delegations.

But, underlining its commitment to enrichment, Iran on Sunday announced it had delivered its first domestically mined raw uranium to a processing facility.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran and the country's vice president, said Iran had for the first time delivered domestically mined raw uranium to a processing facility — allowing it to bypass U.N. sanctions prohibiting import of the material.

Salehi said Iran was now self-sufficient over the entire nuclear fuel cycle — from extracting uranium ore to enriching it and producing nuclear fuel.

Since Iran's clandestine enrichment program was discovered eight years ago, Iran has resisted both rewards and four sets of increasingly harsh U.N. sanctions meant to force it to freeze its enrichment program.

Israel has threatened to attack Iran, even though Israel is believed to have stockpiled more than 200 nuclear weapons and it is not a member of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said it was up to Iran to restore trust about its nuclear intentions, urging it to come to Geneva prepared to "firmly, conclusively reject the pursuit of nuclear weapons."

But for Iran, the main issues are peace, prosperity — and nuclear topics only in the context of global disarmament.

"Iran has not and will not allow anybody in the talks to withdraw one iota of the rights of the Iranian nation," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said beforehand.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Iran claims it can produce raw uranium

  1. Closed captioning of: Iran claims it can produce raw uranium

    >>> iran is claiming a nuclear breakthrough this morning. it says it has produced its own uranium for the first time which means it is now completely self-sufficient over the entire nuclear fuel cycle . iran 's announcement comes one day before it starts nuclear talks with six world powers in geneva. michael singh, former senior director of national security council. good morning.

    >> good morning.

    >> put this into context for us, will you? what does this mean for iran's nuclear program ?

    >> the announcement isn't all that significant with respect to the nuclear weapons program . it's true if iran had sort of a long-term nuclear power program that the step they announced, which essentially means they can make their own fuel, would be quite important. but for those of us kind of watching the progress of the nuclear weapons program , it's not such a big deal . and it's not surprising they would make an announcement of a supposed breakthrough, which may or may not be true, right on the eve of nuclear talks with the united states . this is something they typically do in an effort to gain leverage.

    >> but leverage how? i mean, as if they have something -- like this is our bargaining chip, got to listen to us?

    >> i think what they want to tell us and tell our allies is that, you know, there's lots of reports in the press they're having problems with their nuclear program . there's been report about this computer virus , for example. and i think what they want to show us is that their program is actually proceeding quite smoothly and that we had better be ready to offer them a lot if we want them to stop. now, at the same time, i would note that we're also, i think, trying to develop some leverage. secretary gates, for example, is visiting oe mman, visiting aircraft carrier. that's a message to iran , even though it's not couched in those specific terms. this is the type of gamesmanship that takes place before these negotiations take place.

    >> what is expected to come from these meetings? what do they hope to accomplish?

    >> well, you know, if we step back, we can certainly say we shouldn't be -- have reason to be very optimistic about these negotiations. there have been round after round of negotiations and round after round of sanctions. so far the negotiations have produced extremely little. i think the u.s. hope right now is that the latest sanctions imposed in june were so tough and that iran 's own economic difficulties are so dire that, perhaps, now they'll come to the table actually being a little more serious about the talks. and to try to encourage iran , the u.s. has suggested maybe it's going to offer incentives short of iran suspending uranium enrichment which has been the condition applied by the u.n. security council . you know, we saw hillary clinton , for example, also making a direct appeal to an iranian delegation at a conference she was speaking at, including the iranian remember if, that the united states is still serious about engagement. i think the u.s. is hoping that maybe this time, you know, sort of the tenth time is a charm in this case.

    >> bottom line, is there an accurate sense of how long before iran is able to produce a nuclear weapon ?

    >> well, i think there's only a vague sense. you know, it's a constantly moving target. in part because we don't have great insight into iran's nuclear program . the iaea, for example, is receiving less and less cooperation, which makes it difficult to know exactly what's happening. but also because iran continues to experience problems with its centrifuges and other aspects of its program and it's tough to know exactly how those will impact the timeline. and there's other scenarios. for example we just learned north korea has a highly enriched uranium program. it's not inconceivable iran could use korea as its source.

    >> michael singh, sobering and thank you very much.


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