Iran calls for new offer from world powers before talks

Reuters

* The United States wants Iran to agree to previous offer

* France says there is limited time to resolve dispute

By Yeganeh Torbati and Jon Hemming

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 byworld powers in February as a starting point for talks. If theparties cannot agree on how to start the negotiations, it castsdoubt on whether a resolution can be agreed within the sixmonths in which Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says he wants adeal.

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 relaxation of internationalsanctions on Iran's petrochemicals and trade in gold and otherprecious metals.

U.S. officials said last week Secretary of State John Kerryhad secured agreement from his Chinese counterpart calling forIran to respond positively to existing nuclear proposals by thesix 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 have raised hopes for a solution to the decade-olddispute over Iran's nuclear programme.

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

"RACE AGAINST TIME"

Each side wants the other to make the first move.

"There is a new tone (in Iran), we want it to be sincere butwe need to see deeds," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabiustold Europe 1 radio on Sunday.

But, he said, there was limited time to resolve the disputewhile maintaining the Western goal of ensuring Iran is not ableto make nuclear arms. That was because the heavy water reactorin Arak, in western Iran would be able to produce plutonium.

"If it were completed we wouldn't be able to destroy itbecause if you bomb plutonium it will leak. This means it's arace against time," he said.

Asked how much time he thought there was, Fabius said;"People say roughly a year ... We hope there will be anegotiation, but we must act quickly."

Rouhani and Zarif tried to dispel mistrust with meetings,speeches and interviews at the U.N. General Assembly in New Yorklast month, was capped with a phone call between the Iranianpresident and U.S. President Barack Obama.

Both presidents face opposition at home from conservativeswho fear they may be too willing to grant concessions before theother side takes tangible steps.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has thefinal say on the nuclear issue, said on Saturday he supportedRouhani's diplomatic 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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