EU, Iran nuclear talks delayed
Michael Adler, The Australian:
TALKS to kickstart negotiations on Iran's nuclear ambitions have stumbled when Iranian officials said a meeting between Iranian and EU officials had been postponed.
"We will not have the meeting today in Vienna, but it will be held in a couple of days" in Vienna, Iranian ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh said, adding there was "no particular reason" for the delay. READ MORE
"It is more appropriate for both sides to meet later," he said.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani had tentatively planned to meet in Vienna on Wednesday, ahead of talks in Berlin on Thursday between six nations trying to reach a deal with Iran over its suspect nuclear program.
Washington has led international concerns that Iran is covertly trying to develop a nuclear weapons program, something Tehran denies.
Wednesday's proposed talks had been aimed at giving diplomacy a last chance after Tehran ignored an August 31 deadline to stop uranium enrichment.
But in a sign of mounting international impatience, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia was considering support for UN economic sanctions against Iran.
"We will consider this from all points of view, in totality, based on our goal of not allowing the spread of WMD (weapons of mass destruction) and technology that is linked with this," state-run RIA Novosti quoted him as saying.
However, Mr Lavrov said Russia still had reservations about imposing sanctions on Iran and he underlined Moscow's opposition to military action.
Late Tuesday US President George W. Bush stepped up his war of words against Tehran, lashing out at Iran's leaders dubbing them tyrants and comparing them to the al Qaeda terror network.
"The world's free nations will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon," Mr Bush said, adding the world was working to stop Iran "acquiring the tools of mass murder".
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hit back saying Bush was "nothing" compared to God's will.
"I am telling him (Bush) that all the world is threatening you since the general path that the world is taking is towards worshipping God and divinity," Mr Ahmadinejad told a conference in Tehran.
Iran has insisted on its right to a peaceful nuclear program and continued uranium enrichment - the strategic process which makes nuclear reactor fuel, but also atomic bomb material.
But French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy on Wednesday urged the two sides to keep talking.
"We cannot accept a war of civilisations" between a western bloc and a Muslim bloc, he told Radio Monte-Carlo, commenting on Mr Bush's remarks.
"Good and evil are not decreed by the West in this country or that continent," he said.
Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States are to meet in Berlin on Thursday on the Iran nuclear crisis.
In Brussels, Mr Solana's spokeswoman Christina Gallach confirmed the EU chief had also not left for Vienna, but was still ready to meet with Mr Larijani.
"Solana is a representative of the other six and the offer was made by the six," she said.
A diplomat in Vienna, who asked not to be named, said the larger problem was that the Iranians saw Mr Solana as merely a "messenger and want to bring European ministers into the talks but that is impossible".
"The Iranians don't want to meet Solana. He's only the postman," said another diplomat.
It is believed Mr Solana wanted to try to seek Iranian clarifications over Tehran's 21-page reponse to an incentives deal offered by the six world powers which includes an offer to relaunch talks if Iran suspends uranium enrichment.