U.S. AND IRAN TALK DIRECTLY FOR FIRST TIME IN 30 YEARS – MORNING SESSION GOOD NEWS: IRAN DIPLOMAT DID NOT SPEAK FOR TWO HOURS

American diplomat has one-to-one discussion with Tehran counterpart in Geneva – the first such session in 30 years.

iran-oct-1
Villa Saugy, Geneva, Switzerland, where talks between the U.S. and Iran
were held this morning.

BY JULIAN BORGER
The London Guardian

Senior American and Iranian officials today held one-to-one talks in Geneva during negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme, marking the most substantive bilateral contact between the two countries for 30 years.

The meeting between the American diplomat William Burns and the Iranian official Saeed Jalili came during a lunch break at the Geneva meeting. It was unclear what the two men discussed, but the encounter had been planned in advance by the US state department in the hope of breaking a four-year impasse over Iran’s nuclear activities.

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Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns, head
of the U.S. delegation (L) and European Union foreign policy chief
Javier Solana attend a meeting on nuclear power of Iran
in Geneva October 1, 2009.

The morning session is over and the good news, as far as the western diplomats briefing us here are concerned, is that Saeed Jalili did not talk for two hours like he did last year.

The early line coming out is that the E3+3 diplomats, who had had dinner together last night, exerted concerted pressure and insisted that Jalili talk about the nuclear programme, and the Qom enrichment plant in particular.

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Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili (R) and European Union
foreign policy chief Javier Solana arrive for a meeting on nuclear power
of Iran in Geneva October 1, 2009.

According to the briefers, there was some substantive talk but no breakthroughs. They have broken up for lunch now, at which there may or may not be a one-to-one encounter between William Burns, the American diplomat here, and Jalili.

Then there is hope there will be more “meat” in the afternoon session. There are conflicting reports circulating over whether this could go into a second day. As one official put it: “If the Iranians really start negotiating, we’re not going to say: Sorry, we’ve got a plane to catch.”

The session began with both sides restating earlier positions. Jalili, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, said Iran was within its rights to pursue a peaceful nuclear programme and suggested the negotiations focus on broader, global themes.

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Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili (L) attends a meeting
on nuclear power on Iran in Geneva October 1, 2009.

The six-nation group made up of the US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China said it would stick by the “freeze for freeze” offer put forward last year, under which the UN would impose no new sanctions and Iran would stop expanding its uranium enrichment programme. Iran has so far rejected a further offer of economic aid and technical assistance in establishing a more proliferation-proof nuclear power industry if it suspends enrichment altogether.

This morning the six-nation group, known as the E3+3, agreed the discovery of a previously undeclared uranium enrichment plant made a resolution to the crisis “all the more urgent”, the diplomat said. The group has insisted that Iran name a date for UN inspections of the plant, near the city of Qom.

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Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns, head
of the U.S. delegation (L) and European Union foreign policy chief
Javier Solana attend a meeting on nuclear power of Iran in Geneva
October 1, 2009.

Western powers say that if the talks fail they will look at wide-ranging sanctions aimed at damaging the Tehran regime.

The talks are taking place in an 18th-century lakeside villa. All the E3+3 group have sent top diplomats, with the exception of China, which has sent a relatively junior official, the head of the foreign ministry’s department of arms control and disarmament.

Britain is represented by the Foreign Office political director, Mark Lyall Grant.

See Related: IRAN

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