June 6, 2012 / 2:17 PM / in 6 years

Iran: Big powers' delay clouds next nuclear talks

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran said on Wednesday reluctance by world powers to hold preparatory talks had thrown doubt on the next round of nuclear negotiations later this month.

Tehran has written twice to Britain, France, Russia, China, the United States and Germany - otherwise known as the P5+1 - seeking preparatory meetings before talks in Moscow, but has yet to hear back, Iranian media reported.

“The other side’s delay in meeting deputies and experts throws doubt and ambiguity on their readiness for successful talks,” Iran’s chief negotiator Saeed Jalili said in a letter to the lead P5+1 official, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, the official IRNA news agency reported.

A spokeswoman for Ashton said she would contact Jalili before the planned Moscow negotiations on June 18 but saw no need for further preparatory meetings.

“We have made it very clear that preparatory work is ongoing and political issues need to be dealt with on a political level. That’s why the high representative will reach out to Jalili and this will happen before the next round in Moscow,” Ashton’s spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said.

“We are not against technical meetings in principle but timing is not really right for that,” she said.

It is unclear what Iran hopes to gain from the proposed preparatory talks. Western diplomats have often accused Tehran of seeking to buy time for its nuclear activities by trying to engage in talks about process rather than substance, without real intention of making any concrete concessions.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Western powers were themselves seeking to waste time and “looking for excuses” by refusing to engage in preparatory talks.

“Of course, the Islamic Republic does not expect the nuclear issue to be resolved in one meeting,” IRNA quoted Ahmadinejad as saying on the sidelines of a summit in Beijing.

Western nations suspect that the Islamic Republic’s higher-grade uranium enrichment is part of a clandestine program to develop the material and components needed to be able to make nuclear arms. Iran denies this.

On Tuesday, an adviser to Iran’s supreme leader was quoted as saying the talks could have a positive outcome if world powers recognized Iran’s “nuclear rights”.

Additional reporting by Justyna Pawlak in Brussels; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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