Iran continues carrot-and-stick diplomacy ahead of nuclear talks
TEHRAN -- Iran sent out contradictory signals Wednesday on its plans for highly anticipated negotiations on its nuclear program this weekend, declaring that the Tehran delegation will be bringing "new initiatives" to the talks in Istanbul, Turkey, while announcing at the same time that is is cutting off oil exports to more of Europe.
Tehran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili of the Supreme National Security Council, said his delegation would put fresh proposals on the table at the talks beginning Friday and expressed hopes that the six world powers attending the meeting would arrive with "a constructive approach," Iran's Al Alam TV reported.
Jalili predicted progress at the talks only if the other side -- the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany -- refrains from coercive tactics.
"The language of threat and pressure has never yielded results and only reinforces the determination of the Iranian people," Jalili was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, Al Alam and Press TV announced that Tehran suspended oil exports to Germany and planned to stop shipments to Italy as well. Iranian media said crude exports to Spain were halted Tuesday, and oil sales to France and Britain were cut off in February. The moves are seen as preemptive retaliation for European Union trade sanctions that take effect in July.
Iran sent similar mixed signals this week when state-run media announced that the government had agreed to hold the talks in Istanbul despite its concerns that the Turkish city was an inappropriate venue because of Ankara's sympathies for rebels fighting the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad. Iran is Assad's closest ally in the region.
Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi warned the "5-plus-1" delegation shouldn't impose "preconditions" on Iran for the success of the first talks on Tehran's nuclear ambitions in 14 months. Salehi was alluding to calls from the U.S., Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany for Iran to cease enriching uranium that Tehran says is used for energy production and medical research, and to transfer what stockpiles it has already made out of the country.
-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Carol J. Williams in Los Angeles