Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said he expected the European Union to float “new ideas” at talks on Wednesday over Tehran’s refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. Arriving for the talks in Turkey’s capital, Larijani said “irrational” Western preconditions – an allusion to calls for a halt to all Iranian uranium enrichment activity – had thwarted diplomacy in the quest for a peaceful solution, a Reuters report said.
“That’s why there are other, new ideas. We are supposed to be introduced (to them). That’s why we are here,” he told reporters before his first face-to-face session with Solana in two months. He did not elaborate.
The United States and key allies suspect Iran of harboring a secret nuclear arms program. Tehran says its enrichment work is only for electricity production and is vital for its economy.
After a string of futile EU-Iran contacts stretching back almost a year, there have been diplomatic hints the two sides could entertain a face-saving compromise.
They surfaced again this week, prompting Washington to deny that Western powers were edging away from the UN Security Council resolution they engineered calling for a complete moratorium as a precondition for negotiations on a solution.
An EU diplomat described the fresh media report of Western preparedness to accept a limited suspension as “ridiculous”.
Solana’s aides said he would encourage Larijani at the talks, due to begin at 1400 GMT, to accept a “double suspension” – a halt to all enrichment-related activity in exchange for a shelving of action to implement Security Council sanctions.
That is the Council’s formula for jump-starting negotiations on trade incentives offered to Iran not to pursue enrichment.
While Iran has offered to explore how to guarantee no military diversion of nuclear materials, it has ruled out shutting down its expanding enrichment efforts.
Tehran says the program is irreversible and the West should now accept it as a member of the nuclear club. A second set of UN sanctions were imposed on Iran last month.
However, Iran’s former ambassador to France, Sadeq Kharrazi, who was a member of Iran’s former nuclear negotiating team and retains insight on current diplomacy, told Reuters, “The situation has changed and needs fresh initiatives. Larijani is prepared to reach an understanding over Iran’s nuclear issue.”
Solana voiced hope for Iranian “openness” to finding common ground for serious negotiations to resolve the standoff.
EU officials said Solana’s Ankara trip was worthwhile to re-explore any leeway for negotiations and stressed the EU’s “dual track” strategy of balancing the sticks of sanctions with the carrot of trade benefits via negotiations.
Tehran said this month it had launched more than 1,300 centrifuges and begun feeding them with uranium for enrichment.