Reuters: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad poured cold water on Monday on prospects of a breakthrough in nuclear talks with the European Union this week, ruling out a suspension of uranium enrichment. By Parisa Hafezi and Paul Taylor
TEHRAN/LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad poured cold water on Monday on prospects of a breakthrough in nuclear talks with the European Union this week, ruling out a suspension of uranium enrichment.
Iran and the EU will resume talks on Tehran’s nuclear program in Turkey on Wednesday after the EU endorsed sanctions against the Islamic republic going beyond U.N. resolutions.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he would meet Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, in Ankara in a fresh attempt to persuade Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment, which the West suspects is aimed at making an atomic bomb.
It will be the first such meeting since the United Nations passed fresh sanctions on Iran in March, after Tehran refused to halt its most sensitive nuclear work. Tehran says its program aims to produce power.
Ahmadinejad told Reuters in an interview: “Iran has entered the nuclear club and (the West) should accept it.”
Solana’s spokeswoman said the EU representative would try to persuade Larijani to accept a “double suspension” of uranium enrichment and U.N. sanctions to allow time for negotiations.
But Ahmadinejad said: “Iran will not accept it because the sanctions are not legal, so you cannot ask a country to suspend its legal activities in return for a suspension of an illegal move.”
Solana told reporters he had decided to make a second attempt to break the deadlock because “I thought the situation has sufficiently matured to try again” after his first bid foundered last September on Iran’s refusal to freeze enrichment.
“I don’t have any guarantee that it’s going to be a success, but I don’t have a guarantee that it’s going to be a failure.”
The EU ministers passed a regulation on Monday implementing U.N. measures targeted against individuals and entities involved in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, adding a further list of persons to the visa ban and assets freeze, officials said.
The list was not immediately made public but diplomats said it contained 15 nuclear officials, scientists and Revolutionary Guards commanders and 8 entities including subsidiaries of defense and aerospace companies and of state-owned Bank Sepah.
The EU also imposed a total arms embargo on Iran.
Major powers, who drafted the sanctions resolution, have said Iran must halt uranium enrichment — which can be used for making bombs and to generate electricity. The second resolution was a follow-up to a U.N. resolution adopted on December 23.
Tehran has so far rejected freezing its enrichment work but both Iran and the big powers have offered further talks to ease the tension, although the sanctions would remain in place until Iran halted enrichment.
Iran, the world’s fourth largest oil exporter, says it wants its nuclear program for generating electricity.
The major powers — the United States, the European Union, Russia and China — have offered Tehran a package of economic, civil nuclear and security incentives provided it first suspends its most sensitive nuclear work.
Iranian officials said the renewed talks with Solana were a sign the West was becoming more realistic after Tehran announced it had begun industrial-scale uranium enrichment, a claim doubted by Western and Russian officials.
Larijani told the ISNA student news agency Iran was willing to discuss safeguards to ensure no nuclear material is diverted to make weapons but he rejected what he called “pre-conditions”.
Solana’s spokeswoman said the talks, which would not involve Turkish officials, could last a day or two and the EU foreign policy chief hoped to brief NATO foreign ministers in Oslo on Thursday evening.
Asked why chances of a deal were any better now than last September, Solana’s spokeswoman Cristina Gallach said:
“Firstly there is the full consensus of the international community, which was shown through the vote of the U.N. (sanctions) resolution a month ago, and secondly there is a total understanding by the international community and Iran that we have to solve this problem through negotiations.”
(Additional reporting by Ingrid Melander and Mark John in Luxembourg, Jason Webb in Madrid and Fredrik Dahl in Tehran)