* Iran foreign minister sees possible breakthrough at next
* Says deal could be done "very quickly and simply"
* Calls for sanctions move, hints at fuel swap deal
* Diplomats say signs are good but urge caution
By Marcus George
DUBAI, April 16 Iran is ready to resolve all
nuclear issues in the next round of talks with world powers if
the West starts lifting sanctions, its foreign minister said on
In an interview with the Iranian student news agency ISNA,
Ali Akbar Salehi also hinted that Iran could make concessions on
its higher-grade uranium enrichment, a key concern of Western
powers which suspect Iran is covertly developing a nuclear
weapons capability. Tehran denies the accusations.
Both sides said they were content with progress made in
Saturday's talks in Istanbul which did not go into detail but,
unlike earlier rounds of negotiations, stayed on the subject of
Iran's nuclear programme.
"If the West wants to take confidence-building measures it
should start in the field of sanctions because this action can
speed up the process of negotiations reaching results," Salehi
was quoted as saying.
"If there is goodwill, one can pass through this process
very easily and we are ready to resolve all issues very quickly
and simply and even in the Baghdad meeting," he added, referring
to a second round of talks with world powers scheduled to take
place in the Iraqi capital on May 23.
It is unclear whether the Iranian foreign minister was
suggesting the lifting of sanctions prior to Iran taking steps
to reassure the West over its nuclear activities, but Washington
has said that would not be acceptable.
"Dialogue is not sufficient for any sanctions relief, one
has to get to concrete actions that are significant," said a
senior Obama administration official after the talks on
"One only begins to look at those issues when there are
sufficient concrete steps taken that warrant any changes in our
approach to sanctions," the official said.
Denmark, holder of the European Union's rotating presidency,
also said sanctions should not be eased until Tehran takes steps
to comply with the demands of the major world powers.
"I think it would be very dangerous to create a situation
where we say to Iranians we might lift part of the sanctions,"
Danish Foreign Minister Villy Sovndal told reporters. "They are
world champions in making very long negotiations lead nowhere."
Salehi asserted Iran's right to process uranium for peaceful
purposes but that there might be room for a compromise on
"Enrichment is Iran's right but we can negotiate on how we
obtain uranium with different enrichment levels," he said.
"Making 20 percent (enriched nuclear) fuel is our right as
long as it provides for our reactor needs and there is no
question about that," he said, but added: "If they guarantee
that they will provide us with the different levels of enriched
fuel that we need, then that would be another issue."
The comments indicate that Iran may be prepared to consider
an updated proposal of a 2009 fuel swap deal that collapsed when
the two sides failed to agree on the details of implementation.
The 2009 deal would have seen Tehran export an agreed amount
of its lower enriched uranium in return for fuel made from
higher grade uranium which is required for the Tehran research
Iran says it started enriching uranium to a purity of 20
percent to fuel the reactor but many countries see that as a
dangerous step towards the 90 percent enrichment required for an
A Western diplomat said the Iranian delegation brought up
the 2009 deal in Istanbul and described it as a "missed
"This talk of the TRR could be a positive sign," he said.
"We are ready to put the TRR back on the table, but with adapted
quantities because things have moved since that offer."
The 2009 agreement envisaged Iran handing over 1,200 kg of
low enriched uranium (LEU) in exchange for a sufficient quantity
of higher-grade enriched fuel plates to feed the Tehran reactor.
Western experts estimate Iran's present stockpile of refined
uranium is enough for four atomic bombs if processed much
While Salehi's comments strike a positive tone, the diplomat
said perspective was needed: "There is no mystery, Baghdad will
be complicated. It's not about opening talks for the sake of
talks but moving towards Iran meetings its obligations."
Many analysts and some diplomats say both sides must
compromise for any chance of a long-term settlement: Iran would
be allowed to continue limited low-level enrichment if it in
return accepts much more intrusive U.N. nuclear inspections.
Another Western diplomat said he believed the Iranians were
trying to create momentum in a deal revolving around uranium
enriched to 20 percent and Salehi's comments were more than just
"It has been quite a long time since the issue has been
raised in such terms. I don't know where it could lead ... but
it could at least be a good starter for the next meeting," he
But Israel, which sees Iran's nuclear plans as an
existential threat, has demanded that the Islamic Republic halts
all its enrichment, activity which can have both civilian and