Reuters: EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on Monday his talks with Iran on its disputed nuclear programme were very difficult, while Tehran stressed it had no intention of suspending uranium enrichment. By David Brunnstrom
BRUSSELS, May 7 (Reuters) – EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on Monday his talks with Iran on its disputed nuclear programme were very difficult, while Tehran stressed it had no intention of suspending uranium enrichment.
“The situation as you know is very difficult because what we are demanding from Iran is the suspension of activities as long as the negotiations take place … For the moment this is very difficult to obtain,” he told a European Parliament committee.
Solana said the only agreement he had reached with chief Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani in two days of talks in Ankara last month was to report back ideas they had discussed and keep the channel of communication open.
He said he expected another meeting in the near future, but probably not this week.
The United Nations has imposed limited sanctions on Iran after the Islamic Republic rejected resolutions ordering it to freeze its most sensitive nuclear work, which the West suspects is aimed at developing an atom bomb. Iran insists its programme is purely to general electricity.
The West wants another round of more serious sanctions if Tehran does not comply before a May 24 U.N. deadline.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki stressed again in Stockholm on Monday that his country had no intention of suspending its enrichment programme in line with a staged plan put forward by Switzerland aimed at ending the stand-off.
“The red line is in suspension … a suspension is not in our agenda,” he told a news conference in the Swedish capital.
Solana confirmed that this was the nub of the problem.
“They do not want to suspend and therefore for the other side it is very difficult to get engaged in actual negotiation,” he told EU and national lawmakers in Brussels.
However, Solana said he was convinced that if Tehran met the conditions for starting formal negotiations, progress was possible towards a more cooperative relationship.
“The new dynamics that we will create once the real process of negotiation starts, tends to give me the impression that we could arrive to some possible agreement. But it’s going to be very difficult to enter into the negotiation process without levelling the field.”
The United States, Russia and China have joined the European Union in offering economic, technological and security incentives if Iran abandons nuclear work that could give it a military capability.
Companies and government agencies in three dozen countries have struck more than $153 billion in deals with Iran since 2000, investment that could help persuade Tehran to abandon its nuclear program, according to a new study.
The research by the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank in Washington may be the most comprehensive attempt to publicly identify corporate and government investors whose withdrawal could potentially affect Iran’s nuclear policy.
Solana said he and Larijani had agreed that negotiations would not be open-ended but would last five or six months.
“What we are having now I would not call actual negotiation. It’s more a dialogue to pave the way to enter into a real formal negotiation process,” he said.
Differences with Iran meanwhile continued to dog efforts to launch global talks in Vienna on how to bolster the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Tehran has been blocking the consensus required to approve the agenda in what Western diplomats and analysts suspect is a procedural manoeuvre to thwart a chairman’s summary that might single it out for suspected non-compliance.