Iran, EU to Discuss N. Issue on Monday

A04191692.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili will speak to European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana on Monday, an Iranian official said.

Solana is representing the six powers behind a package of nuclear incentives offer, which called on Iran to freeze expansion of its nuclear work in return for a halt to moves to impose more UN sanctions on Iran.

“Today, Mr. Jalili will talk over the phone with Mr. Solana,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi said. “When it comes to our inalienable rights, we will press ahead.”

A spokesman for Mr. Solana could not immediately confirm the planned contact.

The United States had demanded that Iran meet a weekend deadline to respond to the package.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino warned on Friday “negative consequences await if Iran does not have a positive response” to West’s incentives package, “and that would possibly come in the form of sanctions”.

But Ghashghavi said, “Negotiations are an ongoing process and the question of deadline is media speculation.”

At the last meeting between Jalili and Solana on July 19 in Geneva, Solana asked for a response in two weeks to the package drawn up by permanent UN Security Council members the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France plus Germany.

Oil rose back above $126 a barrel on Monday on supply worries, lifted by concern over the United States’ renewed threat of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear activities.

But an EU diplomat said on Friday, “If it’s in 16 days instead of 14 it’s not a problem. We are not obsessed with a date.”

Iran on Thursday rejected any deadline to give a final response to a package drawn up by world powers, and said there should be more negotiations to reach a deal.

“The language of deadline-setting is not understandable to us. We gave them our response within a month as we said we would, now they have to reply to us,” Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters on Thursday.

Mottaki said Iran and representatives of the major powers had agreed at a July 19 meeting in Geneva to find common ground on both sides’ proposals aimed at ending the five-year standoff over Tehran’s nuclear drive.

“Both sides said that in future meetings they should work on the communalities of both frameworks in a constructive way to reach an agreement that satisfies both sides, otherwise Iran’s constructive activities will take their natural course,” he said.

Tehran’s arch-foe, the United States, insisted on Wednesday that Iran must give an answer on Saturday, warning of consequences of any defiance by the Islamic republic.

But, Washington took back its words on Thursday and denied its previous ultimatum to Tehran that it should present its answer till Saturday or face more sanctions.

“I didn’t count the days. It’s coming up soon,” US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters Thursday when asked if August 2 was the deadline for Iran to accept or reject the package.

Not only did McCormack omitted mentioning a strict deadline, he also said there was “no indication of that” when asked whether Washington would pull the incentives offer off the table.

Analysts view geopolitical factors as among the main causes of recent hike in prices, saying that fears of a new Middle East conflict are behind the new high for oil prices.

Market analysts, specially those from consumer nations, take Bush administration responsible for the price hikes in recent months, saying that it is the “rumors of US and Israeli action against Iran circulating in the markets” that affected oil and the dollar.

Washington and its Western allies accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, while they have never presented any corroborative document to substantiate their allegations. Iran denies the charges and insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Tehran stresses that the country has always pursued a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry.

Despite the rules enshrined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) entitling every member state, including Iran, to the right of uranium enrichment, Tehran is now under three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions for turning down West’s illegitimate calls to give up its right of uranium enrichment.

Tehran has dismisses West’s demands as politically tainted and illogical, stressing that sanctions and pressures merely consolidate Iranians’ national resolve to continue the path.

Iran has also insisted that 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 Darkhoveyn as well as its first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr.

The Islamic Republic stresses that it considers its nuclear case closed as it has come clean of IAEA’s questions and suspicions about its past nuclear activities.

Yet, the United States has remained at loggerheads with Iran over the independent and home-grown nature of Tehran’s nuclear technology, which gives the Islamic Republic the potential to turn into a world power and a role model for other third-world countries. 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 contradicts the 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 February – 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 seems 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.

Observers believe that the shift of policy by the White House to send William Burns – the third highest-ranking diplomat in the US – to the talks with Iran happened after Bush’s attempt to rally international pressure against Iran lost steam due to the growing international vigilance.

US President George W. Bush finished a tour of the Middle East in winter to gain the consensus of 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.

Many world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure against Iran unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports, stressing that Tehran’s case should be normalized and returned to the UN nuclear watchdog due to the Islamic Republic’s increased cooperation with the agency.

Check Also

Arming Against China: The US Global Posture Review

Get the Marines ready. Store the supplies. Marshal the allies. The United States is getting …