Sunday, September 24, 2006

France: Solana, Iran Have Weeks to Agree on Talks

France said on Sunday that EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran had weeks rather than months to agree an agenda for talks about Tehran's nuclear programme.

Asked by LCI television how much time Solana had to reach such a deal with Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said: "In the coming weeks," and added, "That is not months." READ MORE

He said Solana met Larijani a few days ago.

"Mr Solana considered that this discussion was constructive and for the first time the question of suspension was raised."

It was unclear whether Douste-Blazy was referring to a meeting between Solana and Larijani in Vienna two weeks ago, which Solana described as "productive".

The two men were due to meet again on September 14 but their meeting was postponed.

French President Jacques Chirac said on Saturday he was somewhat optimistic a negotiated solution could be found to the standoff over Iran's plans for nuclear development.

"We should do everything to find a solution via dialogue, which is always the best way to resolve problems," he said.

"I am relatively optimistic, because it's in my nature, on the result of the discussions that are taking place between the six and Iran."

The United States, France, Russia, China, Britain and Germany offered Iran a package of incentives in June in exchange for a suspension of Iran's uranium enrichment programme.

Major powers disagree on what sanctions would be imposed if Iran fails to halt enrichment as the U.N. Security Council has demanded.

Enrichment is a process of purifying uranium for use as fuel in nuclear power plants or atomic weapons. Iran insists it wants fuel just for power but Western countries fear it wants to build a bomb.