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SEVERAL GOOD SIGNALS
The one-day closed-door talks were participated by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, senior diplomats from the five UN Security Council permanent member states plus Germany, as well as Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.
It was the first time that the United States participated fully at the talks with Iran -- the U.S. representative were present at a similar session in July 2008 only as an observer.
More noticeably, U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns held informal bilateral consultations with Jalili on the sidelines of the talks.
SPIEGEL: In your position paper, you call for a "reorganization of the United Nations" and "collective management for environmental matters." With all due respect, that's not what this is all about -- it's about Iran's potential nuclear bomb.
Jalili: You're setting the wrong priorities. It is not us who are the danger, but rather the other powers which have already possessed nuclear weapons for a long time. We want all nuclear powers to disarm, as they called for in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. We're calling for an "Axis of Negotiations"…
SPIEGEL: … a clear allusion to former US President George W. Bush's "Axis of Evil," which Bush considered Iran to be part of, together with North Korea and Saddam Hussein's Iraq. But, if you'll pardon our saying so, you've been talking about everything but Iran's nuclear program.
Jalili: But how do the fears in relation to the program arise? Who creates this atmosphere? The media in the US and Europe are irresponsibly playing on people's fears. Take the alleged threat of Iranian missiles, for example. For years, Washington wanted to set up a missile shield in Eastern Europe. Now President Barack Obama has determined that the threat doesn't exist, and he's abandoned the missile shield plan…
SPIEGEL: …but instead he has announced a mobile missile defense system as an alternative.
Jalili: In any case, Europeans have seen a problem vanish into thin air overnight.
SPIEGEL: President Obama has showed a willingness to make concessions, with his speech to mark the Iranian New Year and by offering to negotiate without preconditions. Do you not see the difference between Bush and Obama?
Jalili: We see a change, but no improvement in America's position.
SPIEGEL: The Iranian side, for its part, has not even made symbolic gestures. The fact is that the UN Security Council has imposed multiple sanctions on Tehran. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna has complained of a lack of cooperation from your side and it continues to have considerable doubts that your nuclear program is really only for civilian purposes. Do you mean to ignore all of that?
Jalili: Mohamed ElBaradei, the outgoing director general of the IAEA, has expressed in his latest report for the umpteenth time that there is no proof of an Iranian military nuclear program. As a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, we have not only responsibilities, but also rights. And that includes uranium enrichment.
SPIEGEL: Most of the international community believes Iran forfeited that right by keeping quiet about the existence of the Natanz nuclear facility and buying centrifuges on the black market.
Jalili: What do you mean by the international community? Do the 120 countries in the Non-Aligned Movement, which have defended Iran's rights, not belong to the international community?