Thursday, August 31, 2006

EU's Solana, Iran's Larijani to hold talks soon

European foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, agreed on Thursday to meet soon to discuss Iran's response to incentives to curb its nuclear activities, Solana's spokeswoman said.

"Today they spoke by telephone. They agreed they will have a face-to-face meeting soon," Cristina Gallach said, adding the exact date and venue were undecided. READ MORE

Gallach said the conversation lasted about 30 minutes but she gave no further information on it, or any indication as to whether Larijani had raised the possibility of Iran halting uranium enrichment.

She said Solana would brief European Union foreign ministers on his contacts with Larijani at their meeting in Finland starting on Friday.

"They will discuss among themselves how they see the way forward," she said.

The U.N. Security Council has given Tehran until Thursday to suspend its uranium enrichment program, suspected by the West of being part of a clandestine nuclear weapons program, or face possible sanctions. Iran has shown no sign that it will halt enrichment.

EU diplomats, however, have said the bloc is prepared to keep talking to Iran beyond that deadline.

A European Union diplomat said France, Germany and Spain were among the EU countries that are worried the United States wants to rush into sanctions before making a last effort aimed at avoiding an escalation of the crisis.

Another western diplomat said the meeting with Solana is intended to slow things down a bit to see whether sanctions can be avoided and the Iranians can be made to accept the incentives offer.