Ahmadinejad defiant as EU, Iran talk

NEGOTIATORS FOR IRAN and the European Union met Wednesday in Berlin for talks amid suggestions the US might be willing to defer seeking sanctions for a few weeks if there is a chance for a diplomatic resolution of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani went into their meeting at a foreign ministry facility by the side of Lake Tegel on the outskirts of Berlin without making statements to reporters.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was not participating in the talks, said he was optimistic about progress.

“I have the expectation that the talks today will be successful,” Steinmeier said. “I think that today we will not get any final news, but hopefully in the course of tomorrow.” Solana would report back to the six countries trying to persuade Iran to give up its programme to enrich uranium, he said, “and then it will be decided together if there are conditions for a return to the negotiating table.” Germany has joined with the permanent UN Security Council members — the United States, China, Russia, France and Britain — in pressing Iran to give up what the US says is a nuclear weapons programme. Iran says its programme is peaceful.

Enriched uranium can be used for power plants or for weapons, depending on the level of enrichment.

Solana and Larijani are holding the latest round of talks over a package of incentives the six countries are offering Tehran in return for suspending its uranium enrichment programme and returning to full-scale negotiations.

Iran missed an August 31 Security Council deadline over the issue. The six are considering seeking sanctions in the UN Security Council if Tehran does not comply.

US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Wednesday that Washington might be willing to defer seeking sanctions for a few weeks if a diplomatic solution was in sight. He said that Solana saw an “opportunity” in his meeting with Larijani “if we give the Iranians a little time and space.” “Our response was, ‘absolutely, if it’s a matter of a few days, a few weeks here to see if there is a possibility of keeping open a negotiated diplomatic solution,”‘ McCormack said in Washington.

“We want to give that every opportunity to succeed,” he said.

The administration’s sanctions strategy is to impose a series of increasingly potent penalties against Iran, beginning with curbs on technology that could be used in military programmes.

In Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday Tehran would not give up its right to uranium enrichment despite pressure from the West, the official IRNA news agency reported.

“In negotiations, they tell us to suspend uranium enrichment for one day on the pretext of some technical problem and let us continue negotiations with you,” Ahmadinejad told a seminar in Tehran, IRNA reported.

“Our answer to them, is no one has the right to abandon the rights of the Iranian nation,” he was quoted as saying.

“The Iranian nation will not give up its right.” But other Iranian news agencies appeared to give slightly different renderings of what Ahmadinejad said, although the reason for the differences were not clear.

Mehr news agency suggested Iran had ruled out suspension by quoting him saying: “Today, Western countries want us to suspend our nuclear technology, but we say to them that we will never give it up.”

Another Iranian news agency, ISNA, reported Ahmadinejad saying: “They tell us ‘You should suspend uranium enrichment for just one day on the pretext of some technical problem and then we will negotiate with you.'”

“They say ‘You should suspend uranium enrichment on the surface, helping us to say that Iran accepted suspension,’ but I have to say we are men of negotiation but we do not demand negotiation,” the president added, according to ISNA.

The Washington Times said this week Iran was close to a deal that would include a temporary, 90-day suspension of enrichment and clear the way for talks on a package of incentives offered by six world powers. Iran has dismissed the report.

Ahmadinejad has regularly insisted Iran will not abandon its nuclear plans but earlier this month said Iran was ready to consider unspecified “new conditions” to resolve the nuclear standoff.

The president is not the most powerful figure under Iran’s system of clerical rule, which gives the final word in matters of state, including the nuclear file, to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

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