Reuters: The EU will resume crunch talks with Iran over its disputed nuclear work on Thursday, officials said, as world powers at an atomic watchdog meeting remained divided over whether to crack down on Tehran. By Mark Heinrich
VIENNA (Reuters) – The EU will resume crunch talks with Iran over its disputed nuclear work on Thursday, officials said, as world powers at an atomic watchdog meeting remained divided over whether to crack down on Tehran.
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana was likely to try to pin down Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani on what EU diplomats said was a tentative offer from him to consider temporarily halting enrichment of uranium for nuclear fuel.
The United States, Iran’s arch-adversary and spearheading a campaign to draw up punitive U.N. sanctions against Tehran over suspicions it is secretly trying to build atom bombs, has said it has no knowledge of any such offer.
“It’s Thursday. (The meeting) will be somewhere in Europe, not in Brussels,” said Solana spokeswoman Cristina Gallach, adding the aim of the meeting was “to prepare the conditions in order if possible to start negotiations.”
The Iranian news agency IRNA quoted an “informed source” as saying the talks could be held in Paris. Solana and Larijani last round of talks was in Vienna on Saturday and Sunday.
Western leaders condemned Iran’s disregard of an August 31 U.N. Security Council deadline to suspend its uranium enrichment program, which Iran insists is meant only to make electricity.
The Islamic Republic, while indicating openness to negotiate on a timing and duration of suspension, refuses to take that step before negotiations on a big power offer of trade incentives not to develop nuclear fuel.
Washington says Iran’s defiance should trigger steps to sanctions. The U.S., British, French, German, Russian and Chinese foreign ministers will meet on the fringes of the U.N. General Assembly in New York next week to discuss proceeding to sanctions if there has been no diplomatic breakthrough by then.
BIG POWER DISSENSION AT NUCLEAR MEETING
But Washington’s fellow veto-holders on the Council, China and Russia, as well as Germany and France and other EU nations are wary of cornering the world’s No. 4 oil exporter and, to varying degrees, want more time to find a diplomatic compromise.
Such dissension has hobbled efforts to rein in Iran, which aims to expand its pilot enrichment operation and has evaded International Atomic Energy probes into the program, and it showed on the sidelines of an IAEA governing board meeting.
Diplomats said the six major powers failed to agree on language for a joint statement to the 35-nation board, betraying continued divergences between Washington, with its push for sanctions, and the others who prefer continued dialogue.
One EU diplomat said Britain, Washington’s staunchest ally, was to some extent fence-sitting between the two options.
A majority on the Vienna-based IAEA’s board, which includes the major powers, many EU states, Russia, China and Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) developing nation leaders like India and South Africa, were expected in debate on Wednesday to champion talks with Iran to defuse the stand-off over its nuclear work.
Board members from the NAM, which includes Iran, were likely to stress its right to a domestic nuclear fuel industry but also encourage Iran to cooperate toward a peaceful solution.
(Additional reporting by Ingrid Melander in Brussels and Louis Charbonneau in Berlin)