Iran nuclear programme: US and China call for response

Hassan Rouhani: "The indefinite possession of nuclear weapons cannot be tolerated"

The US and China have urged Iran to respond "positively" to an international offer over its nuclear programme, US officials say.

The call came ahead a rare high-level meeting between the US and Iran.

And Iran's President Hassan Rouhani called for a world without nuclear weapons, hours after saying Tehran wanted a deal in three to six months.

The West suspects Tehran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon, a claim strongly denied by Iran.

Iran has been negotiating over the issue since 2006 with the P5+1 - the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany.

Analysis

In recent years, the travelling brigade of nuclear negotiators has seen much of the world. Air miles aside, they have achieved almost nothing of substance. Diplomats have held talks in Geneva, Istanbul, Baghdad, Moscow, and Almaty. The most recent meeting was in Kazakhstan's biggest city in April 2013.

At times it has been hard to describe the nuclear talks as actual negotiations. More accurately, they have often resembled parallel monologues. But the P5+1 is about to meet a new Iranian team.

Iran's newly appointed Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, replaces Saed Jalili as chief negotiator. Mr Zarif will report directly to Iran's President Hassan Rouhani - himself a former nuclear negotiator.

Since Mr Rouhani's election in June, Iranian officials have reached out to the West, saying they want to address concerns over Iran's nuclear programme.

On Tuesday, Mr Rouhani told the UN General Assembly that he was prepared to engage in "time-bound and results-oriented" talks.

On Thursday, he called for stricter controls on nuclear weapons as part of a global effort to eventually rid the world of them.

"No nation should possess nuclear weapons; since there are no right hands for these wrong weapons," he said, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement at the General Assembly.

'Moderate course'

The P5+1 has asked Iran to halt production and stockpiling of uranium enriched to 20% - a step away from achieving a nuclear weapons capability.

It also demanded Iran shut down the Fordo underground enrichment facility.

In return, it offered to ease the sanctions that have severely affected Iran's economy.

"Both the US and China believe that Iran should co-operate with the P5+1 and should respond positively to the proposals that are on the table," a US official told journalists at the UN on Thursday.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is due to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry as well as diplomats from the UK, France, Russia, China and Germany on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly summit in New York.

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So far the hopes of a thaw in relations between Iran and the West have been based on atmospherics, not substance”

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It will be the highest level direct contact between the US and Iran for six years.

President Obama has welcomed the new Iranian president's more "moderate course".

He told the UN on Tuesday that the US wanted to resolve the nuclear issue peacefully, but was determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

Mr Rouhani has said he is fully empowered by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to negotiate on the issue.

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