Iran Nuclear NewsIran, EU reopen discussions over nuclear dispute

Iran, EU reopen discussions over nuclear dispute

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Bloomberg: The European Union today had “constructive” talks with Iran over its nuclear program, as it sought to resolve a diplomatic dispute with the United Nations that has inflamed tensions in the Middle East, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said. By Mark Bentley

April 25 (Bloomberg) — The European Union today had “constructive” talks with Iran over its nuclear program, as it sought to resolve a diplomatic dispute with the United Nations that has inflamed tensions in the Middle East, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said.

Solana and Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, meeting in Turkey for the first negotiations in more than two months, expressed hope that talks would continue in the coming weeks.

“We had good exchanges tonight,” Larijani told reporters after the discussions at a hotel in downtown Ankara. “There are ideas on the table.”

A UN Security Council deadline for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment expires in less than a month. The UN passed a resolution March 24 freezing the assets of a state-owned Iranian bank and imposing penalties on some military commanders. Iran has since pushed forward with the production of nuclear fuel.

The U.S. and the EU have pressed Iran to return to the negotiating table. The U.S. says Iran is using the development of nuclear power to disguise an atomic weapons program and has refused to rule out force to end the dispute.

Talks will continue in Ankara tomorrow and may resume again in two weeks time, Larijani said.

Solana and Larijani have held a series of talks during the past year, last meeting on Feb. 11 at a security conference in Munich, Germany. The two spoke by telephone three times in the past month, Solana said.

Gradual Halt

The U.S., EU, Russia and China may agree to allow Iran to gradually halt uranium enrichment in order to make progress in the nuclear talks, Agence France-Presse reported, citing unidentified diplomats.

Iran has said that the nation’s atomic program is irreversible. On April 19, Iranian engineers began feeding uranium gas into spinning centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear plant to produce atomic fuel on an industrial scale, defying UN demands to halt the work.

The U.S. and some of its allies say Iran’s aim is to build a nuclear bomb in contravention of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a signatory. Iran has said repeatedly that its program is for peaceful energy purposes.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and China’s President Hu Jintao on March 26 stressed that any resolution of the impasse with Iran must be “exclusively peaceful.” U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney said Feb. 24 that “all options are still on the table” to make Iran comply with UN demands.

Iran, the second-largest producer of crude oil in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, won’t rule out the use of oil as a weapon if the nation’s security is threatened, Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri-Hamaneh said April 18.

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