Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Iran Negotiator's Absence Raises Doubts About Talks

CNN News:
Iran's chief nuclear negotiator has not come to New York this week as expected, raising doubts about talks on Tehran's nuclear ambitions, U.S. envoy to the United Nations John Bolton said on Monday.

But European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who leads the talks for six major powers, told a small group of Spanish-speaking reporters he would see the Iranian negotiator, Ali Larijani, in New York.

I don't know when or at what time. Schedules are complicated in New York during (U.N.) General Assembly week. But we will meet. We will have the chance to see each other," the Mexican news agency Notimex quoted Solana. (Watch how not all welcome visitor -- 1:46)

Bolton, speaking to U.N. reporters, said: "The discussions with Iran appear to have come to a stop -- in the sense that Mr. Larijani, whom we expected in New York, is not here." READ MORE

The United States, which gave Larijani a visa for the trip, has repeatedly delayed pushing for U.N. sanctions on Iran while Larijani held preliminary talks with Solana. But Bolton said time was running out.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the Untied States had acted in good faith by granting a visa to Larijani and he suggested the Iranians were "playing for time" by repeatedly rescheduling meetings with Solana.

"It is a well-known tactic that they have," McCormack told reporters.

Solana said on Friday that a planned meeting last week was postponed because Larijani needed more time to build consensus in his own country if he was to give a positive answer.

The United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China have offered to negotiate with Iran on economic and political inducements if Tehran verifiably suspends uranium enrichment, which the major powers believe is intended for nuclear weapons development.

Iran insists its nuclear activities are only to produce electricity to meet burgeoning energy needs.

President Bush, who has accused Iran of stalling for time so it can advance its nuclear program, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an anti-Western hard-liner, will address the U.N. General Assembly separately on Tuesday.

Major power foreign ministers will discuss the next steps toward Iran at a meeting on Tuesday evening.

The U.N. Security Council demanded that Iran halt uranium enrichment by August 31 but Tehran ignored the deadline and Bolton said the United States intends to press for sanctions.

McCormack said the United States would continue to actively push for sanctions against Iran at Tuesday's dinner.