Reuters: Iran’s unwavering defiance over its nuclear program has further dampened hopes of a breakthrough at talks with the European Union on Wednesday. By Fredrik Dahl
TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran’s unwavering defiance over its nuclear program has further dampened hopes of a breakthrough at talks with the European Union on Wednesday.
Iran and the EU resume discussions in Turkey with the 27-nation bloc hoping to persuade Tehran to halt sensitive work major powers fear is aimed at making atom bombs, in return for a suspension of sanctions against it.
But Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told Reuters in an interview Monday the Islamic state would not accept any such “double suspension” and the government spokesman took a similar line Tuesday.
“This issue (Iran’s nuclear activities) will not go backwards and we have followed a legal path for the country’s progress,” Gholamhossein Elham told a regular briefing.
Iran says its program to make nuclear fuel, which can also provide material for atomic weapons, is aimed at generating electricity so it can export more of its gas and oil.
Wednesday’s meeting between EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani will be their first face-to-face discussions since the United Nations slapped new sanctions on Tehran last month.
Solana, whose first bid to break the deadlock foundered last year on Iran’s refusal to freeze uranium enrichment, said he hoped it would pave the way for formal talks on ending the dispute and that Tehran would show openness in that direction.
“I hope … that we will have a good, very constructive meeting that will not be the last,” he said in Luxembourg.
IRAN DEFIES SANCTIONS
British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, at the same EU meeting, appeared Monday to play down expectations of progress in Ankara.
Asked if she had seen any optimistic signs ahead of the talks between Larijani and Solana, she said: “Not really.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department denied a report that the United States and other world powers are willing to consider a compromise centered on an Iranian proposal that would let Tehran continue some enrichment activities.
“The requirement is for a cessation of enrichment-related activities and then they can get into negotiations” with the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia — as well as Germany, said spokesman Sean McCormack of the wire report by the Associated Press.
He said the United States supports Solana’s talks, which are part of the efforts after the imposition of U.N. sanctions to “try to engage the Iranians and make it clear the pathway (to negotiations) is still open to them … We hope they do engage.”
The EU ministers passed a regulation Monday implementing U.N. measures targeted against individuals and entities involved in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, adding a further list of people to the visa ban and assets freeze.
Iran is showing no sign of bowing to such pressure, this month saying it had begun industrial-scale uranium enrichment which can be used for making bombs and to produce electricity.
The move drew international condemnation even though Western experts expressed scepticism about Iran’s nuclear progress.
Major powers — the United States, the EU, Russia and China — have offered Tehran a package of economic, civil nuclear and security incentives if it suspends its most sensitive atom work.
“We have offered them everything that they say they want by way of access to civil nuclear power, and would like to see them come into negotiations on that basis,” Beckett said.
Iranian officials make clear their view that the country’s atomic program has passed the point of no return and the West should now accept it is a member of the nuclear club.
(Additional reporting by Mark John and David Brunnstrom in Luxembourg; Carol Giacomo in Washington)