Iran Nuclear NewsIran, EU nuclear talks set for Turkey

Iran, EU nuclear talks set for Turkey

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AFP: EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana confirmed here Monday that he will meet this week with Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani in Turkey. LUXEMBOURG, April 23, 2007 (AFP) – EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana confirmed here Monday that he will meet this week with Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani in Turkey.

Iran on Sunday rejected Western calls for a suspension of its sensitive nuclear activities just days ahead of the crucial talks on its atomic drive.

“I will be meeting Larijani on Wednesday in Turkey,” Solana told reporters in Luxembourg ahead of an European Union foreign ministers meeting, adding that the talks would be held in Ankara.

Solana and Larijani held several rounds of discussions last year which failed to find a solution to the crisis. They last met face-to-face for informal talks on the sidelines of the Munich security conference on February 11.

It remains to be seen what result can come out of Wednesday’s meeting, given Iran’s insistence on enriching uranium and the EU position that Tehran must freeze the process before full negotiations can begin.

Solana declined to comment when asked what could be expected from the meeting given Iran had already delivered a hard line.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters in Tehran on Sunday that “halting uranium enrichment is definitely deleted from the literature of Iran’s nuclear activities.”

“I will not talk about that,” said Solana. “I expect to have a resumption of the talks that we had some time ago and see if we can move toward negotiations.”

The UN Security Council has already imposed two sets of sanctions against Iran for refusing to halt sensitive atomic activities and has threatened to take further punitive action if Tehran’s defiance continues.

The EU has been adopting a carrot and stick approach. Solana is expected to renew an offer to Tehran of a major package of political, economic and cooperation in the civil nuclear sector.

At the same time Wednesday’s meeting will come half way through a 60-day UN deadline for Iran to cease its enrichment activities with the threat of further Security Council sanctions.

“We remain confident that Javier will be able to assess, to explore the possibilities to come into a prenegociating phase that would eventually lead to negotiations via a package of incentives and positive elements which is still on the table,” said Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik.

The United States, which accuses Iran of seeking to make nuclear weapons, has never ruled out the option of military action to bring Tehran to heel. Iran insists its nuclear drive is solely for generating energy.

Iran has shown no sign of yielding in the stand-off, saying that its uranium enrichment operations have reached an industrial level and announcing it wishes to install over 50,000 uranium enriching centrifuges at a plant in Natanz.

Western observers however have said the extent of Iran’s progress remains unclear and diplomats at the UN nuclear watchdog in Vienna have said it has installed only 1,300 centrifuges so far.

The prime minister of Iran’s arch-foe Israel, Ehud Olmert, said that Tehran was “far from attaining the technology threshold and this country is not close to getting it, contrary to statements by its leadership.”

Iran’s first nuclear power station is being built with Russian help in the southern city of Bushehr but its completion has been delayed repeatedly and the nuclear fuel promised by Moscow has yet to arrive.

Iran on Sunday agreed on a plan to resolve a financing dispute with the Russian contractor building the country’s first nuclear power plant, Russian news agencies reported, citing the company.

The semi-official Iranian Fars news agency said the EU-Iran meeting could go ahead following work by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“Erdogan has been in talks with the head of the national security council (Larijani) and the EU foreign policy chief and agreed that the new round of talks on Wednesday will be held in Turkey,” the agency said.

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