Solana Hopeful of New N. Talks with Iran

A00384993.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Sunday that he hoped to meet Iran’s top nuclear negotiator within the next three months.

“I hope to be able to meet soon” with Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili, he said at the Brussels Forum conference in the Belgian capital.

Solana, who has led talks aimed at persuading Iran to give up its right of uranium enrichment, said he did not expect a meeting in coming days because “nothing dramatic is going to happen” in the wake of last week’s elections in Iran.

He said a possible time frame might be in “30 days to 90 days”.

“Let’s see what is the response” from Tehran, he said.

The UN Security Council two weeks ago tightened sanctions against Tehran for a third time over its refusal to heed West’s calls to give up nuclear rights stipulated for all signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

A review is scheduled 90 days after they were imposed.

Solana has, for almost two years, been trying to persuade the Islamic republic to suspend uranium enrichment in exchange for a package of political, trade and economic incentives.

As he held out this carrot, UN Security Council pressure has mounted, but Tehran maintains that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, reminding that in previous cases, its frequent confidence-building measures have always been ignored or reciprocated with sanctions.

Following Iran-EU talks under the then reformist president Mohammad Khatami, Iran suspended its enrichment activities for two years in exchange for the recognition of its enrichment rights by the West. But after the two years of voluntary suspension, the EU3 shrank their undertakings.

Thus, Iran has this time ruled out any suspension of its enrichment activities as a precondition for starting talks on the offer.

On Saturday, Iranian government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham said, “The issue of nuclear talks with the countries of the 5+1 is over.”

He was referring to the five permanent Security Council members plus Germany whom Solana is negotiating on behalf of.

The US is at loggerheads with Iran over Tehran’s independent and home-grown nuclear technology. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.

Washington’s push for additional UN penalties contradicted the recent report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran’s programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and similar reports by the IAEA head – one in November and the other one in early March – which praised Iran’s truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities and announced settlement of outstanding issues with Tehran, any effort to impose further sanctions on Iran seemed to be completely irrational.

The February report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised Iran’s cooperation in clearing up all of the past questions over its nuclear program, vindicating Iran’s nuclear program and leaving no justification for any new UN sanctions.

Tehran says it never worked on atomic weapons and wants to enrich uranium merely for civilian purposes, including generation of electricity, a claim substantiated by the NIE and IAEA reports.

Iran has insisted it would continue enriching uranium because it needs to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it is building in the southwestern town of Darkhovin as well as its first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr.

Not only many Iranian officials, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but also many other world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports saying Iran had increased cooperation with the agency.

US President George W. Bush, who finished a tour of the Middle East last month has called on his Arab allies to unite against Iran.

But hosting officials of the regional nations dismissed Bush’s allegations, describing Tehran as a good friend of their countries.

Bush’s attempt to rally international pressure against Iran has lost steam due to the growing international vigilance, specially following the latest IAEA and US intelligence reports.

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