Tuesday, July 11, 2006

EU-Iran nuclear talks end in stalemate

By HANNAH K. STRANGE


July 11,2006
"nuclear iran"-- Talks between the European Union and Iran aimed at persuading the Islamic Republic to accept a deal on its nuclear programs ended with no sign of a breakthrough Tuesday.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said that that talks on Tehran's atomic program will be a "long process," urging patience and dashing hopes that agreement could be reached by a Wednesday deadline.

Speaking after a Brussels meeting with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, he said: "We have discussed a wide range of important issues together, consultations will now be done by both sides. We will be in contact together in order to see how to proceed.

"We have to go into a long process, we must be patient and do everything exactly."

Solana meanwhile was equivocal in his appraisal of the meeting, saying only: "We will make (an) analysis and we will see how to proceed."

A spokeswoman for Solana later refused to comment on the content of the talks, which lasted four hours and had earlier been postponed on two occasions.

The United States and Europe had been hoping for a positive response to a six-nation package aimed at dissuading Tehran from continuing with uranium enrichment.

Britain, the United States, Russia, China, France and Germany had offered economic and trade incentives as well as access to peaceful nuclear technology in exchange for a pledge by Iran to suspend uranium enrichment activities during nuclear talks.

The six nations -- who are to meet in Paris Wednesday to discuss the stand-off -- wanted a response before the G8 summit of industrialized nations in St. Petersburg, Russia, this weekend.

However, Tehran has insisted it will not respond formally to the offer until August. Arriving in Brussels Tuesday, Larijani said: "We have expressed our view regarding the deadline. We are not used to acting before thinking."

In a hint that Iran might be moving towards a positive response, he added that there was "no need for pessimism."

But a senior official from the British Foreign Office told United Press International that Iran had not indicated "any flexibility" at the meeting, particularly on the suspension of enrichment activities.

"Everyone who attended was disappointed. Our ministers will decide how to proceed at Wednesday's meeting in Paris," he said.

He would not comment on whether Iran would be given more time to respond, saying this was a matter for ministers.

Meanwhile in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice again raised the specter of sanctions against the Iranian regime should it not sign up to the deal.

"We hope that the Iranians choose the path before them for cooperation, but of course we can always return to the other path should we need to," she said.

The six nations have not confirmed the details of the package but it is understood to include provision of light water nuclear reactors and enriched fuel, access to U.S. agricultural and civilian aircraft technology and support for Iranian membership of World Trade Organization.

Concern has been mounting about Iran's nuclear ambitions since it emerged in 2003 that the Islamic Republic had been operating a uranium enrichment program in secret for 18 years. Britain, France and Germany -- the so-called EU Three -- held talks with Tehran aimed at ensuring its nuclear programs were peaceful; however these collapsed last summer.

The stand-off escalated sharply in January when Iran removed United Nations seals from three nuclear facilities, ending a two-year suspension of uranium enrichment-related activities.

Under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, countries are allowed to enrich uranium for peaceful nuclear energy purposes; this, Iran maintains, is its only intention.

However the same technology can be used to create nuclear weapons, which some countries, notably the United States and Israel, fear is Tehran's true objective.

Confrontational exchanges between Washington and Tehran have heightened international tensions. U.S. President George W. Bush has made clear that the use of force against Iran remains an option, while Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei warned last month that it could disrupt shipments of oil from the Gulf if the United States made a "wrong move" in the dispute. Iran has also suggested it could use its influence to stir up trouble in the region, particularly in neighboring Iraq.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad remained defiant during a tour in northwest Iran Tuesday.

"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," Iranian news agency IRNA quoted him as saying.

Should Iran ultimately reject the six-nation offer, the United States will likely press for sanctions against the regime. However such a move could be thwarted by resistance from Security Council veto-holders Russia and China, both of which have key interests in the country. Russia has a $1 billion contract to build Iran's first atomic reactor at Bushehr, while China is heavily reliant on Iranian oil exports for its energy supplies.

According to a British diplomatic figure with knowledge of the negotiations, the latest incentive package had been put forward largely at the request of Moscow and Beijing.

However in the face of "continued Iranian intransigence," it was likely that discussions at the Security Council would be reactivated and measures to increase pressure on the regime adopted, the official told UPI.

Ministers at Wednesday's six-nation meeting would be seeking to devise a "concerted game plan," he said, and would also attempt to broker a united and resolute position on the issue at the G8 summit.

© Copyright 2006 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved
posted by ali ghannadi-irannuk

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