Iran Nuclear NewsDiplomats trying to restart Iran talks

Diplomats trying to restart Iran talks

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AP: U.S., European and Russian diplomats agree on encouraging Iran back to the bargaining table over its disputed nuclear program, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday. Diplomats from the U.S. and its negotiating partners plan to meet next week to try drafting a new U.N. resolution on the standoff. Associated Press

By ANNE GEARAN

AP Diplomatic Writer

BERLIN (AP) – U.S., European and Russian diplomats agree on encouraging Iran back to the bargaining table over its disputed nuclear program, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday. Diplomats from the U.S. and its negotiating partners plan to meet next week to try drafting a new U.N. resolution on the standoff.

“We reconfirmed we will use available channels and the Security Council to try to achieve that goal” of restarting negotiations with Iran, the top U.S. diplomat said. Rice spoke after a breakfast meeting with her counterparts from Germany, Russia and the European Union.

The group reviewed Iran’s compliance with a U.N. Security Council demand that it stop enriching uranium, a key step toward producing either nuclear power or a nuclear weapon.

After the meeting, the U.N. nuclear watchdog released a report confirming the Islamic republic’s refusal to freeze enrichment. The report by Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Iran has expanded enrichment efforts.

Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said Thursday he will travel to London on Monday for meetings aimed at forging a new resolution on Iran.

Burns said he hoped the United States and other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany, can quickly draft a resolution. He said it was too soon to say what provisions the resolution might contain but said his hope was one would be drafted that would “see Iran repudiated again.”

The atomic energy agency’s report is a step toward additional sanctions, but it was not clear whether U.N. Security Council members Russia and China would go along.

Rice said she and her counterparts made no decisions Thursday because they met before ElBaradei’s report was released. Rice headed back to the United States immediately after the breakfast meeting.

“The report gives us a pretty clear picture that shows that Iran has not changed its behavior, has not changed its views and is continuing on the path of defiance. We think that’s unfortunate,” State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters.

Iran has called for talks with the United States – but has not budged on council demands that it mothball its enrichment program.

Enriched to a low level, uranium is used to produce nuclear fuel but further enrichment makes it suitable for use in building an atomic bomb. The West claims the Islamic republic intends to build a bomb with enriched uranium. Iran says it merely wants to develop peaceful nuclear power.

In moderate remarks Wednesday directed at Washington – the key backer of tougher U.N. action – Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said the dispute “has to be decided peacefully with the United States.”

But other top Iranian officials used harsher language, and none showed signs of compromise on the main demand of the U.S. and other world powers – a halt to enrichment and related activities.

“The enemy is making a big mistake if it thinks it can thwart the will of the Iranian nation to achieve the peaceful use of nuclear technology,” Iranian state TV’s Web site quoted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying Wednesday.

Rice said last week that the United States probably would press for another U.N. resolution condemning Iran for continuing to defy the U.N. demand to stop enriching uranium, and to seek additional penalties against Tehran.

The Security Council set a 60-day deadline on Dec. 23 for Iran to freeze its enrichment activities and said continued Iranian defiance past that ultimatum, which ran out Wednesday, could lead to stronger punishment.

The U.N. is demanding an immediate and unconditional halt to uranium enrichment, after which European-led negotiations over an economic reward package might begin. Iran has long insisted it will not stop its nuclear activities as a condition for negotiations to start.

“The best course would be for Iran to suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities so that we can return to negotiations,” Rice told reporters Tuesday. “That is the entire purpose of having the pressure on the Iranian regime, so that the Iranian regime can make better choices about how to engage the international community.”

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