Monday, May 23, 2005

Straw Hopes for Iran Nuclear Deal
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said he hopes nuclear talks between three European Union countries and Iran this week could make progress, and appealed to Iran to compromise. READ MORE

Straw, along with foreign ministers from France and Germany and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, are to hold urgent negotiations with Iran on Wednesday in Geneva, aiming to put the talks back on track.

Tehran said last week it was considering restarting its uranium-enrichment program, which the EU and the United States fears is being used to develop weapons.

The three EU countries and Solana were to get the backing of other EU ministers at Monday's foreign ministers meeting, ahead of the Geneva talks.

"The Iranians are tough to negotiate with," Straw told reporters. He added, however, that all sides are agreed that it is in everyone's interests to reach agreement.

Straw, refused to give details of what specific issues the EU three would raise with Tehran and said the Geneva meeting would be "to ensure that both sides stick by the commitments which we have already entered into."

Straw was cautiously optimistic the talks, which are entering their seventh round since Iran and the EU launched the discussions last November in Paris, would yield results.

"I'm not going to anticipate the outcome of the discussions. I hope they will be successful," Straw said.

The 25-nation bloc is at pains to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and has offered the carrot of a free trade pact and further economic aid if it comes clean on its nuclear intentions.

Iran claims its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, to build much-needed nuclear reactors to meet growing energy needs.

The talks with Iran have so far failed to make headway. French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said last week the negotiations were "very fragile and complex."

EU officials said the three countries and Solana would brief the foreign ministers Monday. Meanwhile, parallel trade talks with Iran were also to be discussed by the EU ministers, updating them on a trade offer which is to be presented to the Iranians.

"We need to indicate to the Iranians the potential that is there," said EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner. "Iran should understand they are much better off with us."

The 25-nation EU last week threatened to take Iran to the U.N. Security Council after Tehran said it was planning to resume some uranium reprocessing activities.

Tehran on Sunday warned the EU that a referral of its nuclear program to the Security Council would deal a setback to the nuclear talks and could prompt Tehran to act on its own. ...