Iran Nuclear NewsNo breakthrough seen for Iran-EU nuclear talks

No breakthrough seen for Iran-EU nuclear talks

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Reuters: European Union and Iranian officials will discuss the standoff over Tehran’s nuclear program on Thursday but no breakthrough is expected despite a threat by world powers of further sanctions. By Jason Webb

MADRID (Reuters) – European Union and Iranian officials will discuss the standoff over Tehran’s nuclear program on Thursday but no breakthrough is expected despite a threat by world powers of further sanctions.

Iran reiterated it would not bow to U.N. Security Council demands to suspend uranium enrichment over Western fears it is developing nuclear arms. The world’s fourth biggest oil exporter says its nuclear program is only for power generation.

Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani will hold talks in Madrid with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who is acting for world powers, on the dispute that has already seen Iran hit twice with U.N. sanctions.

Foreign ministers of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations, meeting in Germany on Wednesday, expressed “deep regret” Iran had carried on expanding enrichment activities and suggested more sanctions could be imposed.

“If Iran continues to ignore demands of the Security Council, we will support further appropriate measures as agreed in Resolution 1747,” the foreign ministers said in a statement.

Security Council resolution 1747 gave Tehran a 60-day deadline to freeze all enrichment, a process of purifying uranium for power plants or weapons. Iran ignored the deadline, which expired last week.

RUSSIAN STANCE

Besides major Western powers and Japan, the G8 also includes Russia, which has backed previous U.N. resolutions in the past while stressing Iran’s right to a peaceful nuclear program.

“Iran cannot accept suspension,” Larijani told reporters in Tehran. “We have no conditions and we are ready for constructive talks but we will not accept any preconditions. We are ready to remove concerns over Iran’s atomic issue.”

On arrival in Madrid, he said: “We have walked on a long path relatively in our talks with Mr. Solana and we basically understand each others’ principles of thinking.”

Mark Fitzpatrick, chief nuclear non-proliferation analyst at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies and a former senior U.S. State Department official, said: “I do not expect much. The two sides remain very far apart.”

He said Solana would be looking to see if Larijani was ready to suggest the “freeze for freeze” idea — enrichment suspension for sanctions suspension — that Iran floated with Swiss interlocutors earlier this spring.

“But (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad’s daily statements inveighing against suspension leave little room for Larijani to compromise, even if he were so inclined, which is open to question,” said Fitzpatrick.

Solana is empowered by the five permanent Security Council members — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — plus Germany and the EU to explore the scope for formal talks on a package of economic, technological and political initiatives if Iran suspends enrichment.

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