Reuters: Iranian negotiators and the EU’s Javier Solana had what they called a “constructive” meeting in Rome on Tuesday and said they expected more talks on Iran’s nuclear program by the end of November. By Robin Pomeroy and Phil Stewart
ROME (Reuters) – Iranian negotiators and the EU’s Javier Solana had what they called a “constructive” meeting in Rome on Tuesday and said they expected more talks on Iran’s nuclear program by the end of November.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had earlier said Iran would not retreat “one iota” from its nuclear plans, overshadowing the first meeting with Western diplomats for his new chief negotiator Saeed Jalili, appointed on Saturday.
Jalili, accompanied to the meeting by his predecessor Ali Larijani, said Tehran supported dialogue with the West and saw the talks as an opportunity to forge better ties with Europe.
“The basic principal of the Islamic Republic of Iran is dialogue and cooperation — the course that our dear brother Dr. Larijani has traveled with in the past two years,” Jalili told a news conference.
“The meeting of today has been constructive,” said EU diplomatic chief Solana. “We’re going to continue over dinner but we wanted to communicate to you that very likely we will have the opportunity of meeting again before the end of the month of November.”
With speculation rife that Jalili’s appointment might signal a harder line in Tehran, Ahmadinejad rejected calls to suspend uranium enrichment — the key U.N. Security Council demand.
Iran’s refusal to halt work that can be used to make fuel for power plants or, if it wants, material for warheads, has already prompted two sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions.
“RIGHT TO NUCLEAR TECHNOLOGY”
“We are in favor of talks but we will not negotiate with anyone about our right to nuclear technology,” Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by Iranian state television during a trip to Armenia. “Iran will not retreat one iota.”
World powers have agreed to delay further penalties on Iran at least until November to see if Iran cooperates with U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors, and to await a report by Solana.
Solana’s mandate is to explore the scope for entering formal negotiations with Iran on international requests that it halt sensitive nuclear activities.
Tehran insists its nuclear program is aimed at producing electricity so it can preserve its oil and gas for export.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Iran was breaking the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and sanctions could follow.
Israeli premier Ehud Olmert, speaking alongside Brown, said economic measures were “not sufficient.”
Ahead of the Rome talks, a U.S. official said Solana would make a “similar offer” to a proposal by Russia’s Vladimir Putin: a foreign-built civil nuclear system for electricity without access to “more sensitive” aspects of nuclear technology.
“We’ve offered diplomacy, they keep rejecting diplomacy, so I really think the ball is in their court,” U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said in New York.
U.S. officials fear Security Council backing for a third sanctions resolution might meet Russian opposition. But British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said in Washington he saw both Russia and China would support a third round of U.N. sanctions.
U.S. President George W. Bush has said a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to a third world war.
(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi and Zahra Hosseinian in Tehran, Mark John in Brussels, Jeffrey Heller in London, Claudia Parsons in New York and Louis Charbonneau in Berlin)