AFP: Senior diplomats from major powers will hold talks this week in Berlin to prepare a key negotiating session with the Iranians over their nuclear program, the US State Department said Tuesday. WASHINGTON, May 8, 2007 (AFP) – Senior diplomats from major powers will hold talks this week in Berlin to prepare a key negotiating session with the Iranians over their nuclear program, the US State Department said Tuesday.
Wednesday’s meeting will be the second time in a week that envoys from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States discuss the Iranian nuclear issue ahead of a new UN deadline later this month for Tehran to freeze its uranium enrichment program.
The talks will aim to thrash out a common approach ahead of new negotiations between EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iranian official Ali Larijani, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.
Solana and Larijani met in late April in Ankara and both men reported progress in their negotiations, but no breakthrough on the key issue of UN demands Iran halt its uranium enrichment activities.
The two agreed to meet again in mid-May, though no dates were set.
The six major powers already met May 2 in London to discuss the results of the first set of Solana-Larijani discussions.
The UN Security Council has imposed two sets of limited sanctions on Tehran in a bid to halt the enrichment work, but Iran has refused, insisting their program is designed only to produce fuel for nuclear power generation as permitted under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
The United States believes the program is aimed at producing nuclear weapons.
Iran has until May 23 to comply with the latest UN resolution, and the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, is due to issue a new report on the state of Iran’s nuclear work that same week.
The Group of Eight industrialised nations are then due to hold a summit in Germany June 6-8 which is expected to include discussion of the Iranian nuclear standoff.
This week’s discussions will take place on the sidelines of a meeting of G-8 diplomats to prepare for the summit. China, which is not part of the G-8, will participate via telephone or video conference, McCormack said.
“We want to make sure that every interaction that our representative — meaning Mr. Solana — has with the Iranians is the most effective interaction that it can be,” he told reporters.
European diplomats have raised the possibility of a compromise formula, dubbed a “double time-out,” under which Iran would agree not to expand its uranium enrichment work and the major powers would not seek further sanctions.
The two sides would then open negotiations on a set of economic and political incentives offered by the six major powers if Iran will agree to curbs on its nuclear work.
McCormack did not rule out the notion, as long as it “adheres to the idea of suspension of their enrichment-related activities in return for suspension of further activity in the Security Council.”
But he added that “the devil is in the details” and Washington would not accept a proposal that allowed Iran to continue operating uranium enrichment centrifuges, even in limited numbers.
“They, while we are talking, can’t be allowed to practice and get good at running centrifuge cascades, because that … defeats the whole purpose of talking,” he said.