Iran Nuclear NewsSolana holds nuclear talks in Iran

Solana holds nuclear talks in Iran

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Reuters: EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana began a meeting with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, on Tuesday to present proposals aimed at persuading Tehran to halt making nuclear fuel, an Iranian official said. By Parisa Hafezi

TEHRAN (Reuters) – EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana began a meeting with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, on Tuesday to present proposals aimed at persuading Tehran to halt making nuclear fuel, an Iranian official said.

The package of incentives and penalties, backed by six world powers, seeks to defuse a standoff over Iran’s nuclear programme. The West accuses Iran of seeking to build atomic bombs but Tehran insists its goals are purely civilian.

The initiative was put together by the three biggest EU states — Britain, France and Germany — and then approved by a forum that also included the United States, China and Russia.

The official from Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, of which Larijani is the secretary, said the meeting with Solana had begun but gave no further details.

“The proposal we bring along, the one that we carry, we think that will allow us to get engaged in that negotiation based on trust and respect and confidence,” Solana told reporters in brief comments at the airport late on Monday.

Iran has said it would consider the proposals but officials have also said Iran would not give up uranium enrichment, a process that can be used to make fuel for nuclear power stations or, if enriched to a high enough level, material for bombs.

“If their aim is not politicising the issue, and if they consider our demand, we can reach a logical agreement with them,” Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters shortly before Solana arrived.

The United States has said Iran’s negative comments so far are probably part of efforts to stake out a negotiating position and urged careful consideration by the Islamic Republic, with which it broke off diplomatic ties in 1980.

Mottaki said discussions on the package would require “shuttle diplomacy” and Iran would have suggestions to make — indicating no imminent breakthrough.

“After receiving this proposal, Iranian officials will start to review this proposal and we will give our answer at an appropriate time,” he said.

JITTERY MARKETS

Details of the proposals have not been announced, but diplomats have been working on themes ranging from offering nuclear reactor technology to giving security guarantees.

The New York Times reported that incentives included a proposal to allow Tehran to purchase aircraft parts from Boeing Co and Airbus and to buy agricultural technology from the United States, which imposes trade sanctions on Iran.

Diplomats in Washington said an arms embargo against Iran was among the possible penalties if it rejected the offer.

But they said the six powers had pledged to keep details secret until the package was shown to Iran so Tehran did not feel compelled to reject any or all of the elements as a face-saving gesture if they were made public first.

A U.S. government report rebuked Iran on Monday as one of the world’s worst offenders in allowing women to be sold into the sex trade, a move that could cloud the nuclear talks although a U.S. official said the rebuke was unrelated.

The U.S. has long criticised Iran’s human rights record. Iran accuses Washington of hypocrisy, citing the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq, for example.

The nuclear dispute has unsettled jittery oil markets, where traders fear an escalation in the dispute could disrupt supplies from the world’s fourth largest oil exporter. The standoff has helped keep oil prices near record levels above $70 a barrel.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final word in state matters, said on Sunday that oil supplies from the region would be in danger if the United States made a “wrong move” — a veiled threat to use oil as a weapon.

Officials had previously said Iran would not resort to such a measure.

Although the United States insists it wants a negotiated resolution to the nuclear standoff, U.S. officials have refused to rule out a military option if diplomacy fails.

(Additional reporting by Saul Hudson in Washington)

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