Reuters: The European Union agreed on Saturday to try to clarify Iran’s stance on halting uranium enrichment within two weeks and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan held talks in Tehran to try and settle the standoff. By Ingrid Melander
LAPPEENRANTA, Finland (Reuters) – The European Union agreed on Saturday to try to clarify Iran’s stance on halting uranium enrichment within two weeks and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan held talks in Tehran to try and settle the standoff.
Annan’s visit to Iran takes place two days after the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), reported Tehran had failed to meet the U.N. Security Council’s August 31 deadline to suspend sensitive work.
The United States, which accuses Iran of seeking atomic bombs, said on Friday it was consulting European governments about possible sanctions against the Islamic Republic, but the EU signaled it wanted to see more dialogue with Tehran which says its atomic activity is aimed at producing power.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana will meet Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, next week to try to clear up ambiguities in Tehran’s reply to the major powers’ offer of broad cooperation if it stops the nuclear work.
“If the meeting goes well and Iran accepts the philosophy of the cooperation project we presented to it in June, I think we will be able to start a more formal negotiation,” French Sunday newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche quoted Solana as saying.
Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel said after the 25 EU ministers discussed the Iranian issue in Finland on Saturday: “We give Solana two weeks for his clarification talks.”
But Solana told reporters: “There’s no deadline, whenever we finish … We are going to start in the coming days and I hope that it will be very short. We don’t need many meetings.”
Other EU ministers said Solana would report back to them in Brussels on September 15 and they had agreed not to take any action against Iran before then.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted by ISNA student news agency as saying: “Our nation is a supporter of peace but it will not retreat an iota from its right to nuclear technology.”
Annan met Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Larijani, who is also the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, on Saturday. He meets Ahmadinejad on Sunday.
“I have just had very good and constructive discussions with Mr. Larijani. As you can imagine we discussed the nuclear issue and many other issues of concern to Iran and to the United Nations,” Annan said after the meeting.
EU WANTS SOLUTION THROUGH DIALOGUE
The United States is the driving force behind possible sanctions but Russia has cast doubt on whether the U.N. Security Council could reach a quick consensus and said threatening Iran would lead to a “dead end”.
In Finland, ministers declined to speak publicly about what sanctions they might apply if Tehran did not comply.
But Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said a coalition might have to impose sanctions unilaterally if the United Nations was unable to agree on punitive measures.
“It will be very, very difficult, but … please, we need to stick together with the United States,” he told reporters.
In reaction to the prospect of sanctions, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for economic affairs, Alireza Sheikh-Attar said: “Putting Iran under sanctions will damage the big countries which consume oil. We have a plan for different scenarios to combat any possible sanctions.”
EU diplomats said the two-week timeline was determined largely by the fact that the bloc’s 25 foreign ministers hold their next regular meeting on September 15, and the U.N. General Assembly convenes on September 19.
World leaders and foreign ministers are set to discuss next steps toward Iran at their annual gathering in New York.
The five countries with permanent seats on the Security Council — China, Britain, France, Russia and the United States — plus Germany would meet in Berlin on September 7 to discuss the way forward, the French Foreign Ministry said.