Reuters: The United States led pressure on Tuesday for Iran to face U.N. action after it defied calls for an early response to an offer of incentives aimed at ending a nuclear standoff. By Parisa Hafezi and Mark John
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The United States led pressure on Tuesday for Iran to face U.N. action after it defied calls for an early response to an offer of incentives aimed at ending a nuclear standoff.
Talks between chief Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana ended with both sides showing frustration and Tehran insisting it needed more time to consider sweeteners for it to halt uranium enrichment.
Washington said major powers, whose foreign ministers meet in Paris on Wednesday, had previously agreed to deal with Tehran at the United Nations if it failed to reply. Britain expected ministers would take a decision in Paris on the next steps.
“Ministers when they meet tomorrow will have to take a decision as to what that means for the resolution on the table,” British U.N. envoy Emyr Jones Parry said in New York.
He was referring to work on a resolution against Iran that had been delayed to allow Tehran to respond to the June 6 offer. Russia and China had been reluctant to back any resolution they feared could lead to sanctions or even military action.
Expectations for a breakthrough at the talks had been low after Iran repeatedly said it was not ready to give a reply.
“We must be patient and try to negotiate … We must allow more time for negotiations to work,” Larijani said after his four-hour discussions with Solana on a package of technology, trade and political incentives.
“The meeting was disappointing,” said Solana spokeswoman Cristina Gallach, adding that the EU was not satisfied with the meeting but expected to have further contacts with Iran.
The United States, which accuses Tehran of secretly working to build nuclear weapons, had demanded a clear Iranian response before next weekend’s summit of Group of Eight industrialized nations in Russia or face possible U.N. Security Council action.
But asked if Iran even intended to stick to its own target date of August 22 for a response, Larijari said merely that the timing depended on domestic committees assessing the offer.
“As soon as we get the results of this work, we shall share them with our friends. We are determined to reach a result as soon as possible.”
While the Brussels talks were under way, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad breathed defiance back home, saying his country would defend its right to produce nuclear fuel.
“The Iranian nation will not retreat one iota on its way to realizing all of its rights, including complete nuclear rights and employing the capacities to produce nuclear fuel,” student news agency ISNA quoted him as saying in northwest Iran.
An Iranian nuclear official said Larijani had reiterated Iran’s insistence that it continue to enrich uranium differences and that Solana could not answer all Larijani’s questions.
“One of the main problems of this proposal is that there is no clear legal guarantees,” he told Iranian reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“For example, they offer us a reactor, but it’s not clear which country is giving it, which company, and can the government oblige those companies to give Iran those reactors if pressured by the United States,” the official added.
Solana’s spokeswoman rejected that assertion, saying: “All the questions were answered. If there were no more answers, it was because there were no more questions.”
A EU diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity said the offer presented to Iran contained proposals that any agreement would be deposited with Vienna-based U.N. atomic energy watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency, and be endorsed by a U.N. Security Council resolution.
Diplomats say that with Russia and China, both veto-holders in the U.N. Security Council, wary about imposing sanctions on Tehran there is little pressure on it to give an early reply.
Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters at U.N. headquarters: “I hope Iran is focusing very heavily on delivering a positive response to the package.”
The package includes a state-of-the-art nuclear reactor with a guaranteed fuel supply, economic benefits and other incentives if Iran halts uranium enrichment.
Separately, some Western diplomats accredited to the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency in Vienna said technical glitches appeared to have slowed down Iran’s nuclear fuel-enrichment program and put on hold plans to expand it.
“We have been told of problems from people in a position to know. It’s a slowdown in the process although we haven’t been able to quantify it yet,” said one diplomat, who like others asked for anonymity due to the topic’s political sensitivity.
Iran, the world’s fourth largest oil exporter, rejects charges it seeks a nuclear weapon and argues it is solely interested in electricity generation.
(Additional reporting by Edmund Blair in Tehran, Mark Heinrich in Vienna, Chris Buckley in Beijing, Madeline Chambers in London, Saul Hudson in Washington and Irwin Arieff in New York)