Reuters: The EU’s top diplomat said on Wednesday Iran’s new chief nuclear negotiator was upstaged by his predecessor at Rome talks, warning that “multiple players” from Iran could further complicate negotiations with the West. By Phil Stewart
ROME (Reuters) – The EU’s top diplomat said on Wednesday Iran’s new chief nuclear negotiator was upstaged by his predecessor at Rome talks, warning that “multiple players” from Iran could further complicate negotiations with the West.
Javier Solana met Iran’s newly appointed chief negotiator Saeed Jalili for the first time on Tuesday. But the European Union foreign policy chief said that former chief negotiator Ali Larijani, also in Rome, appeared to be leading the Iranian team.
“We have to let some time pass to see how these latest waves in Iran’s power structure settle,” Solana said in an interview with Italian state broadcaster RAI’s Italia News program, which Reuters viewed ahead of its full release later this week.
“It will be very important because the negotiation is already a difficult negotiation. If you also must negotiate with various players at the same time, it will be more complicated still.”
Jalili replaced Larijani after his resignation was announced in a move analysts said could present the West with a harder line in its dispute over Tehran’s atomic ambitions.
Solana noted that Larijani was still on the Supreme National Security Council as a representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, saying: “In this capacity, he was in Rome talking to me.”
“They were both at the meeting, Larijani and Jalili. Larijani led the meeting, he was the one that took on all of the weight of the meeting,” he said. “So he will continue to play an important role, in my judgment, in Iran’s power structure.”
Larijani took the lead for the Iranian team again at a joint news conference on Wednesday with Jalili, Solana and Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, after further discussions.
Prodi, whose country is one of Iran’s main trading partners, said he had “warmly invited Iran to comply with the requests from the United Nations to halt uranium enrichment procedures”.
But Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday, just before the talks began, that he rejected calls to suspend uranium enrichment — the U.N. Security Council’s key demand — and that Iran would not retreat “one iota” on its nuclear plans.
The Security Council has imposed two sets of sanctions over Iran’s failure to halt nuclear work the West believes is aimed at building atomic bombs. Tehran denies any such military plans.
The United States is pushing the Security Council to impose a third round of sanctions against Iran over its program.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee that the United States would push hard for a third U.N. sanctions resolution.
An aide to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is on a trip to Morocco, said time was running out and that “we absolutely have to act in order to avoid a catastrophe”.
Diplomatic efforts to stiffen sanctions against Iran are making progress, with Russian President Vladimir Putin supporting them, the aide said.
Russia and China are lukewarm to further punitive measures against Iran.
Ahmadinejad on Wednesday called such sanctions resolutions “just a pile of papers”.
Both sides called the Rome talks “constructive” and talked about meeting again before the end of November. Six world powers have agreed to delay any further U.N. penalties at least until November to see if Iran cooperates with U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors and to await a report by Solana.
Larijani said he found the ideas raised in the talks with Prodi “constructive and helping to make further progress”.
He called the IAEA mission an Iranian “initiative” and a “goodwill gesture” and a “fundamental step toward resolving the problem and (if there are no) adventuristic approaches from certain other elements, they can come to some conclusions”.
Despite speculation that Jalili’s appointment might signal a harder Iranian negotiating line, Larijani termed his departure part of the normal “rotation” of posts in a democratic country.
“Jalili is a friend of mine … He will come to the stage and continue doing the work,” Larijani told reporters in Rome.
(Additional reporting by Emmanuel Jarry)