Saturday, September 23, 2006

Nuclear talks with Iran may start without U.S.-report

France, Britain and Germany would be willing to begin talks with Iran even if it has not suspended its nuclear enrichment programme first, but Washington would not take part, a German magazine reported on Saturday. READ MORE

So far Iran has refused to suspend its uranium enrichment programme, which could refine uranium for atom bombs, saying its nuclear fuel ambitions are limited to fuelling power stations. Western countries suspect Tehran wants to produce weapons.

Citing unnamed German diplomatic sources, weekly Der Spiegel said the goal of this new strategy would be to lure Tehran to the negotiating table to discuss a package of incentives offered by six world powers in June in exchange for a suspension of Iran's uranium enrichment programme.

The six powers that made the offer to Iran -- the United States, France, Russia, China, Britain and Germany -- said the package was negotiable but conditioned any negotiations on a suspension of enrichment, a process of purifying uranium for use as fuel in nuclear power plants or atomic weapons. In a preview of an article to appear on Sunday, the magazine said a decision by the "EU3" to begin preliminary talks with Iran would require a positive outcome of discussions between European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani.

The United States would not join in any talks with Iran until a full enrichment suspension was in place, the paper said.

After several delays, Solana and Larijani are expected to meet somewhere in Europe next week, diplomats have said. Der Spiegel said the meeting would probably take place in Brussels.

The six powers have agreed to give Solana until early October to reach a deal with Tehran for starting negotiations.

The new plan was discussed at a meeting of senior officials of the six countries and the EU in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Der Spiegel said.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice voiced no direct approval to this strategy but signalled she could tolerate it, the magazine reported.

If this plan does not result in a breakthrough in the West's years-long nuclear standoff with Iran, the six countries will have no choice but to begin debating serious sanctions of the kind Washington wants imposed on the Islamic republic, it said.