AP: Iran recently hinted at willingness to discuss a partial suspension of uranium enrichment, but the West stuck to its demand for a full halt and Tehran withdrew its idea for getting talks going in the dispute over its nuclear program, diplomats said Wednesday Associated Press
By GEORGE JAHN
Associated Press Writer
MADRID, Spain (AP) – Iran recently hinted at willingness to discuss a partial suspension of uranium enrichment, but the West stuck to its demand for a full halt and Tehran withdrew its idea for getting talks going in the dispute over its nuclear program, diplomats said Wednesday
With both sides back to their hard-line positions, talks scheduled Thursday between Iran’s top nuclear negotiator and the European Union’s senior foreign policy representative were unlikely to make substantial headway, the diplomats told The Associated Press.
Both Iran and the United States kept to their tough positions before the talks.
“Suspension is not the right solution for solving Iran’s nuclear issue,” the Iranian state news agency quoted envoy Ali Larijani as saying before leaving for Spain.
Later, on arrival in Madrid, he obliquely blamed the impasse on the insistence of the U.S. and its Western allies that Tehran freeze all enrichment, referring to “some mischievous moves by some countries.”
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, meanwhile, said the world should not soften demands that Iran halt all disputed nuclear work. “That would be a very big mistake,” she said.
Rice was responding to questions about increasing sentiment in Europe that the five permanent U.N. Security Council nations plus Germany – the powers trying to engage Iran – should drop the demand that Iran suspend all enrichment as a condition for talks on a package of incentives.
At their most recent round of talks last month in Turkey, both Larijani and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana spoke of progress and agreed to meet again to try to bridge the divide.
Iran insists it has the right to develop uranium enrichment to produce fuel for nuclear reactors that would generate electricity, while the Security Council demands it freeze such activities until Tehran allays fears it is trying to develop atomic weapons.
Speaking on condition of anonymity because they were discussing confidential information, diplomats familiar with the issue said at least part of the optimism after the first meeting was based on Iran’s apparent readiness to discuss a temporary, but partial suspension of enrichment.
Iran was ready to stop some of its centrifuge machines, which can enrich uranium both to the low level used to make reactor fuel and to high-grade material used to make nuclear warheads, one diplomat said.
Insistence by the U.S. and key Security Council allies Britain and France that Tehran fully suspend its program doomed the chances of agreement, the diplomat said.
“It was clear that those on the Western side did not accept any centrifuges (running) at all,” said the diplomat. “As a result, the Iranians have gone completely hard-line.”
Diplomats said evidence of that surfaced at a meeting Friday in Brussels, Belgium, between Larijani’s deputy, Javed Vaidi, and senior civil servants of Britain, France and Germany who report directly to their foreign ministers. Also present was a senior Solana aide.
“It was a disaster,” said one of the diplomats, saying the two sides parted with no signs of progress.