Reuters: The European Union’s foreign policy chief may meet Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator in the next week or so to discuss Tehran’s atomic program, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Thursday. By Arshad Mohammed
SHANNON (Reuters) – The European Union’s foreign policy chief may meet Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator in the next week or so to discuss Tehran’s atomic program, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Thursday.
The EU’s Javier Solana intends to meet Ali Larijani to try to persuade Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and other activities that can produce fuel for nuclear weapons.
“I think they are going to try to meet in the next week or so,” Rice told reporters as she flew to Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other top officials.
The meeting is part of a round of initiatives seeking to end the long-running crisis over Iran’s nuclear program.
European Union foreign ministers will warn Iran next week that it faces tougher sanctions unless it halts activities the West suspects are aimed at making atomic bombs, diplomats said.
However, a draft statement agreed by EU ambassadors on Thursday avoided responding directly to a French proposal for EU states to consider their own sanctions without waiting for the U.N. to act again. The proposal has divided EU members.
The EU would “consider what additional measures it might take in order to support the U.N. process and the shared objectives of the international community”, the draft said.
Western nations suspect Iran wants to develop atomic weapons under the cover of a civil nuclear program. Iran says its program is to generate power so it can export more oil and gas.
Senior officials from six world powers will hold their next meeting in Berlin on Wednesday to discuss Iran, a diplomat said.
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters in Washington this week that the meeting of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus Germany would discuss the language of a new U.N. sanctions resolution.
The U.N. Security Council has passed two sanctions resolutions against Iran for failing to halt uranium enrichment.
However, the major powers have agreed to delay further U.N. sanctions until November to see whether Iran’s agreement with U.N. nuclear inspectors to try to clear up questions about its atomic program yields results and to await a report by Solana.
Rice appeared skeptical Iran would give the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors all the information they wanted.
“There is an Iranian history of obfuscation and indeed lying to the IAEA. There is a history of Iran not answering important questions about what is going on,” she said.
Russia has been cool to the idea of imposing more U.N. Security Council sanctions on Iran for its failure to halt uranium enrichment. Putin said on Wednesday said he had no evidence Iran was trying to build a nuclear weapon.
Asked if Russia might take a harder line against Iran in exchange for a U.S. flexibility on a missile defense system planned for Europe, Rice said: “No, I don’t see it as a kind of quid pro quo because I think the Russians have concerns about what Iran is doing as well.”