Iran Nuclear NewsIran offers no concessions in nuclear talks

Iran offers no concessions in nuclear talks

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New York Times: Negotiators for Iran and the European Union held a new round of talks today on Iran’s uranium enrichment program, but the meeting ended with indications that the Iranians had offered no new concessions to ease Western concerns that Iran plans to develop nuclear weapons. The New York Times

By JOHN F. BURNS
Published: December 1, 2007

LONDON, Nov. 30 — Negotiators for Iran and the European Union held a new round of talks today on Iran’s uranium enrichment program, but the meeting ended with indications that the Iranians had offered no new concessions to ease Western concerns that Iran plans to develop nuclear weapons.

After 18 months of largely unproductive talks between the Europeans and the Iranians, the London meeting had been billed as a last-ditch attempt to persuade Iran to compromise ahead of a meeting in Paris on Saturday of a six-nation group, including the United States, that have threatened new United Nations sanctions against the Iranian government over the nuclear issue.

“I have to admit that after five hours of meetings I expected more, and therefore I am disappointed,” Javier Solana, the European foreign policy chief, said as the talks broke up. He said the two sides would remain “in telephone contact” and that “only if circumstances permit” would there be any more talks between the Europeans and the Iranians before the end of the year.

The Iranian negotiator, Saeed Jalili, struck a more positive note when he spoke separately to reporters. He said the talks had been “good” and that the two sides had agreed on a new meeting, an assertion Mr. Solana appeared to rebut in his brusque statement to reporters a few minutes later. “We agreed to continue our negotiations and we agreed to a meeting next month,” Mr. Jalili said.

There was more than Mr. Solana’s downbeat statement to suggest that the talks had failed to break the deadlock over Iran’s nuclear program, and that the momentum will now shift to the six nations who will attend the Paris meeting on Saturday — Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States, all United Nations Security Council members, plus Germany — which agreed in September to consider new United Nations sanctions on Iran if there was no progress in halting the Iranian enrichment program by December.

At the last meeting between Iran and the European Union, in Rome five weeks ago, Mr. Solana described the talks as constructive, and met with reporters afterward standing alongside the Iranian negotiator, Ali Larijani. But before the Rome meeting, Mr. Larijani’s replacement as the chief Iranian nuclear negotiator delegate had been announced in Tehran, and Mr. Jalili, regarded by many in Iran as a comparative hard-liner, had been named as his successor.

The London talks were thus the first in which the Iranian delegation was led by Mr. Jalili, a previously little-known deputy foreign minister who is said to have close ties to Iran’s volatile president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Mr. Larijani, who had held the post since 2005, had been a political rival of Mr. Ahmadinejad in the 2005 presidential contest, and is said to have close ties to Iran’s supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Critics of the change in Iran had predicted that Mr. Jalili would bring a new rigidity to the Iranian position.

A brief flurry of expectation was raised ahead of the London talks when an official in Mr. Solana’s delegation told reporters that Mr. Jalili was expected to bring new proposals to the meeting. But this quickly evaporated when the two negotiators appeared separately, and with cursory statements, after the meeting at Lancaster House, an 18th-century mansion in central London that is often used for diplomatic talks.

Mr. Solana’s spokeswoman, Cristina Gallach, told reporters after the meeting that Mr. Solana had brought no new European proposals to the talks, but had hoped that Mr. Jalili would come with new ideas to help break the impasse. She said this had not happened, and that further talks were now in doubt. “A series of development have to take place” before Mr. Solana can report progress to the six-nation group considering increased sanctions on Iran, she said, “and at this point there’s not enough not to be disappointed.”

Mr. Solana will not attend the paris talks, Ms. Gallach said, but would send a senior official to report on the London meeting. Although the senior officials who make up the six-nation group — including R. Nicholas Burns, a United States under secretary of state — reached an agreement to consider a new round of United Nations sanctions when met in London in the fall, Russia and China are expected to block any practical moves in that direction. Both nations have strong bilateral relations with Iran, and have said that any new measures against Iran will only stiffen its resistance.

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