Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Talks Between EU's Solana and Larijani Postponed

Geoge Jahn, New Press:
Key European nations called on Iran Wednesday to negotiate its nuclear dispute with the international community, even as Washington said the time had come to punish Tehran with U.N. sanctions.

Britain, France and Germany only alluded to the threat of U.N. Security Council sanctions if Tehran continues to enrich uranium. The United States, however, said it was now up to the Security Council ''to back international diplomacy with sanctions.''

Meanwhile, a meeting between EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani will not take place as planned Thursday, an EU spokeswoman said Wednesday. READ MORE

Cristina Gallach, the spokeswoman for Solana, told The Associated Press that aides to the two officials would meet instead in Paris.

In a telephone call from EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Gallach said the aides - EU senior negotiator Robert Cooper and Javad Vaeidi, deputy head of Iran's National Security Council - held talks in Vienna on Tuesday.

Gallach would not comment on what the decision meant as far as the progress of the negotiations. She said the men would report back to their capitals after Thursday's talks and then decide on a date for the next meeting between Larijani and Solana.

Expectations within the international community for Thursday's meeting had been high before the announcement that both Solana and Larijani would not attend.

Two previous rounds that ended in Vienna on Sunday were described by both men as making progress toward solving the impasse over Tehran's refusal to freeze uranium enrichment and the Security Council's demand that it does so.

Earlier Wednesday, Britain, France and Germany urged Tehran ''to follow the path ... towards a negotiated solution'' instead of confrontation that could result in U.N. sanctions.

Diplomats accredited to a meeting of the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency said that while France and Britain favored a tougher approach, Germany supported a more toned-down text.

The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because they were giving out information they were not authorized to share.

Consensus on the text, delivered inside the closed-door meeting and made available to The Associated Press, was achieved only after compromise among the three.

But U.S. chief delegate Gregory L. Schulte accused Iran of ''a history of deception, lack of transparency, provocative behavior and disregard for its international obligations.''

''The time has come for the Security Council to back international diplomacy with international sanctions,'' he declared.

The five permanent members of the Security Council - Britain, France, the U.S., Russia and China - along with Germany are offering Iran economic and political rewards if it agrees to consider a long-term moratorium on enrichment and commits to an enrichment freeze before talks to discuss details of their package.

Reflecting differences over how to deal with Tehran, they gave up their attempts to join together in criticizing Iran's nuclear defiance on Tuesday after China and Russia refused to endorse U.S.-backed tough language, diplomats said.

Those two countries have resisted U.S.-led efforts to move to sanctions quickly, despite the expiry of an Aug. 31 deadline on Iran to freeze work on developing the technology. Instead, they favor continued negotiations.

Iran has made an unofficial and tentative offer for a freeze of up to two months, which was revealed by officials from delegations familiar with the outcome of those talks. However they told the AP on Tuesday that Tehran would only consider freezing enrichment once talks have begun, which runs counter to demands from the six. No formal proposal has been made.

State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will take up the sanctions issue with other diplomats at the U.N. General Assembly next week.

Tehran has said it would not give up its right to enrichment, which it says it needs to develop to meet future nuclear power needs.

Still, any formal offer by Tehran for even a temporary pause would be significant because it could de-escalate the standoff if accepted by the six powers as a basis for the start of negotiations.


AP writer Palma Benczenleitner contributed to this report.