AFP: Iran has two weeks to reply to an international plan for resolving the standoff over the country’s nuclear programme, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy has said, as the European Union confirmed new high level talks with Tehran.
by Christophe de Roquefeuil
MOSCOW (AFP) – Iran has two weeks to reply to an international plan for resolving the standoff over the country’s nuclear programme, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy has said, as the European Union confirmed new high level talks with Tehran.
Douste-Blazy, in Moscow for meetings with other foreign ministers from the Group of Eight (G8), said that Iran must reply ahead of the G8 leaders’ summit scheduled to take place in Saint Petersburg on July 15-17.
“We expect their reply before July 15,” Douste-Blazy said Thursday. “It seems clear to me that Iran must say yes. Then there will be negotiations.”
“If the response is negative between now and July 15, then it is clear that the international community will be firm and that in particular we will continue what we have begun in the (UN) Security Council,” he added, referring to discussions over potential measures against Iran.
The gathering of major powers in Moscow on Thursday coincided with the day originally named by Western diplomats as an informal deadline for Tehran to reply to the proposals, which require Iran to suspend uranium enrichment work.
The United States and the European Union believe Iran is using a civilian nuclear programme to hide a secret atomic bomb project.
Tehran denies the accusation and has rejected time limits for responding to the proposed resolution to the crisis.
The international community so far is underlining its willingness to keep talking.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, also in Moscow to meet with the G8 ministers, confirmed that he would soon be meeting high-level Iranian officials, whom he did not identify, probably next Wednesday.
“I hope that this meeting will be positive, that there will be constructive proposals from the Iranian side,” Solana said. “We must listen to our Iranian friends and reflect.”
However, he added that suspending uranium enrichment is “not negotiable.”
Earlier, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said in Tehran that he would be meeting Solana in Spain next week.
The international plan agreed to by the UN Security Council permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus Germany promises incentives and multilateral talks if Iran agrees to a temporary halt of uranium enrichment.
Tehran has so far indicated it will not comply, since uranium enrichment is at the centre of the country’s Russian-backed civilian nuclear power programme.
Solana said that the door to talks remained open and that he did not support setting an ultimatum.
“I hope we will have more frequent meetings and that we will not need to fix a final date.”