Reuters: European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on Thursday he had failed to reach a deal with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator on Tehran’s atomic ambitions, but they had paved the way for further talks. By Louis Charbonneau
BERLIN (Reuters) – European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on Thursday he had failed to reach a deal with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator on Tehran’s atomic ambitions, but they had paved the way for further talks.
“We have been progressing,” Solana told reporters after discussions with Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani.
“We still have some issues that have not been closed,” he added without elaborating. Solana said he hoped to renew contact with the Iranians by the middle of next week.
Solana’s comments appeared to hint that the chances for a speedy resolution were fading, a day after the U.S. State Department had said that time was running out for a deal.
In June the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China offered Tehran a package of economic and political incentives if it suspended uranium enrichment, which the West believes is part of a nuclear weapons programme.
Tehran says its uranium enrichment activities are aimed solely at generating electricity and has refused to halt them.
Larijani said seven hours of talks over the last two days in Berlin had brought “some possible conclusions” and added that talks would continue.
“We hope to be able to embark on the main negotiations as soon as possible,” he said, referring to the incentives package.
Neither Solana nor Larijani took questions and it was not clear if there had been any change in Iran’s position on the crucial issue of suspension.
An Iranian deputy foreign minister, Manouchehr Mohammadi, said at a conference in Madrid that this issue was unresolved.
“There are some problems with regards to the cycle of enrichment and the suspension,” he said, without giving details.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was also planning to meet Larijani. He said earlier that he hoped U.N. Security Council action would be unnecessary.
“I expect we will see some movement in this conflict that will enable us to avoid escalating it by getting the Security Council involved,” Steinmeier told reporters at parliament.
If Iran does not suspend enrichment, the United States and the “EU3” have agreed to ask the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic. China and Russia oppose sanctions and would prefer to reopen negotiations with Iran.
The Washington Times reported earlier this week that Iran was close to a deal that would include a temporary, 90-day suspension of uranium enrichment and clear the way for negotiations on the details of the package.
Iran has dismissed this report as propaganda and no mention of it was made at the briefing after Wednesday’s meeting.
But French officials have said Larijani offered to consider a temporary suspension at a previous meeting with Solana two weeks ago in Vienna.
A majority of Americans want the United States to increase diplomatic efforts in the dispute with Iran and 70 percent oppose the use of U.S. troops against the Islamic Republic, a Reuters/Zogby poll published on Thursday showed.
President George W. Bush said last week at the U.N. General Assembly he was willing to give diplomacy time before resorting to sanctions to resolve the dispute with Iran.
He has not ruled out military action.
The U.N. Security Council originally set an August 31 deadline for Iran to halt enrichment which Tehran ignored. The six powers then agreed to give Solana until early October to reach a deal.