Iran calls for new offer from world powers before talks

Reuters

DUBAI, Oct 6 (Reuters) - World powers negotiating withTehran over its disputed nuclear programme must come up with newproposals before talks in Geneva on Oct. 15-16, Iran's foreignminister said.

The United States wants Iran to respond to proposals made byworld powers in February as a starting point for talks. If theparties cannot even agree on how to start the negotiations, itis less likely a resolution can be agreed within the six monthsin which Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says he wants a deal.

Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - thefive permanent members of the United Nations Security Council -plus Germany, the so-called P5+1, said in February they wantIran to stop enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, ship out somestockpiles and shutter a facility where such enrichment is done.

In return, they offered relief on international sanctions onIran's petrochemicals and trade in gold and other preciousmetals.

U.S. officials said last week that Secretary of State JohnKerry had secured agreement from his Chinese counterpart callingfor Iran to respond positively to existing nuclear proposals bythe six world powers.

"The previous P5+1 plan given to Iran belongs to history andthey must enter talks with a new point of view," ForeignMinister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview with Iranianstate television late on Saturday.

"The players must put away this illusion that they canimpose anything on the Iranian people."

The election of Rouhani in June and his appointment ofU.S.-educated Zarif as foreign minister and chief nuclearnegotiator has raised hopes of a solution to the decade-olddispute over Iran's nuclear programme.

Western powers believe Iranian enrichment activities are acover for achieving nuclear weapons capability, whereas Iraninsists its programme is purely for civilian purposes - forgenerating electricity and for a medical research reactor.

Rouhani and Zarif both tried to dispel mistrust of theIslamic Republic with a series of meetings, speeches and mediainterviews around the U.N. General Assembly in New York at theend of last month which was capped with a phone call between theIranian president and U.S. President Barack Obama.

Both presidents face opposition at home from conservativeswho fear their government may be too willing to grantconcessions before the other side takes tangible steps.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the mostpowerful man in Iran and the person who has the final say on thenuclear issue, said on Saturday he supported Rouhani'sdiplomatic opening with the United States.

But he said some aspects of it were "not proper". Khameneidid not elaborate on his objections, but it was a possiblereference to the phone conversation between Rouhani and Obama.

The supreme leader also said he did not trust the UnitedStates as a negotiating partner, a sentiment echoed by Zarif.

"Just as the supreme leader said, we do not trust them, andthey must build the trust of the Iranian people towards them inpublic and private discussions," Zarif said.

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