Reuters: European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana expressed optimism on Sunday that an agreement could be reached on a package of incentives to persuade Iran to abandon any nuclear weapons’ ambitions. By David Brunnstrom
VIENNA, May 28 (Reuters) – European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana expressed optimism on Sunday that an agreement could be reached on a package of incentives to persuade Iran to abandon any nuclear weapons’ ambitions.
“We keep on working and I think we are making progress,” he said in Vienna while attending an EU foreign ministers’ meeting.
The European Union has been crafting the package aimed at persuading Iran to stop enriching uranium as part of a programme Tehran says is the peaceful development of nuclear power, but which the West says is intended to make atomic weapons.
“We talked also with President Putin when we were in Sochi, so I think we are making progress,” he told Reuters, referring to talks with the Russian leader at an EU-Russia summit in the Black Sea resort last week.
The package could include offering Iran a light-water nuclear reactor, an assured supply of fuel for civilian atomic plants so it would not need to enrich uranium itself, and warnings of sanctions if Tehran rejected the overture.
“There will be a meeting sometime this week, also the Security Council which is continuing working,” Solana said. “Basically we are getting very close.”
Solana gave no details on the meeting to discuss the incentives between the five veto-wielding U.N. Security Council permanent members — Britain, The United States, China, France and Russia — as well as rotating member Germany, for which a time and venue have yet to be announced.
Asked if there were still problems reaching an agreement on incentives, he replied: “There are still some elements. I will not get into this, but I think we are going to get agreement.”
Some EU officials, the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency and many analysts believe Iran could be motivated to stop activity that could lead to nuclear bomb-making only with a U.S. pledge not to try to topple the Islamic Republic’s government.
U.S. President George W. Bush said on Thursday he would consider providing incentives to Iran but U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has denied Washington had been asked to offer a security pledge and would not do so in any case.
Russia has so far opposed the idea of sanctions against Iran. China has also been reluctant, but U.S. and European officials believe that if Moscow agrees to sanctions, then Beijing will go along.
Separately Iran’s student news agency ISNA quoted an Iranian official as saying that Russia wants a resumption of talks between Iran and European countries on the nuclear issue.
“Russia emphasised (the need for) the resumption of talks between Iran and the three European countries,” the Iranian official said after the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, Igor Ivanov, met Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani.
France, Germany and Britain, acting on behalf of the European Union, negotiated a suspension of Iran’s nuclear enrichment in 2003 but that deal broke down in August 2005. The so-called EU3 then called off further talks in January 2006.