Iran delays nuke talks with EU, new date set
5 July 2006, BRUSSELS - Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani on Wednesday unexpectedly delayed long-awaited nuclear talks with the European Union by one day despite growing pressure for a quick response to last month's international bid to ease the nuclear standoff with Tehran.
5 July 2006
BRUSSELS - Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani on Wednesday unexpectedly delayed long-awaited nuclear talks with the European Union by one day despite growing pressure for a quick response to last month's international bid to ease the nuclear standoff with Tehran.
A statement by EU foreign and security chief Javier Solana - who was scheduled to meet Larijani in Brussels on Wednesday - said discussions with Larijani would now be held over dinner on July 6, with a further meeting set between the two men for July 11.
Solana said he was "surprised to hear that Larijani ... has decided at the last minute to postpone his trip to Brussels as previously agreed with him to take place today."
"I had made clear to the Iranians and Dr Larijani that we want to proceed rapidly to examine together the ideas I put to him early last month," said Solana.
"I have just spoken to Dr. Larijani on the phone and we agreed that we will meet tomorrow in Brussels and that we will continue our discussions on July 11," the EU chief diplomat added.
The international offer, delivered to Tehran by Solana in early June, includes a package of incentives for Iran, including the transfer of civilian nuclear technology, in exchange for a suspension of uranium enrichment.
Iranian government officials have insisted over the past weeks that they need to clear up "ambiguities" contained in the package, and have brushed aside demands that they respond swiftly to the offer.
An aide to Solana said Larijani's last-minute decision to delay the meeting was completely unexpected since "everything had been prepared" for the talks.
Larijani warned Solana of his change in plans late on Tuesday night.
The two top diplomats then had another phone conversation early on Wednesday in which Solana insisted that a first meeting must be held this week, followed by further contacts on July 11, ahead of a meeting in Paris of the six countries - Germany, France, Britain, the US, China and Russia - which are seeking to defuse the nuclear crisis.
"The EU message was clear: We cannot wait until next week for an Iranian response to the offer," said an EU diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Larijani said his decision to delay the meeting with Solana was linked to "developments in the European Parliament," the diplomat said, referring to the presence of Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday.
But there is a growing sentiment in Brussels that Iran is playing for time because of internal political differences over how to respond to the incentives package.
"They are obviously not interested in responding fast...the current situation suits them because they can keep saying they need clarifications," the EU diplomat said.
However, questions could only be cleared through discussions, the diplomat underlined, adding: "The sooner Iran takes a political decision on the offer, the better."
A European Commission spokeswoman also voiced disappointment at Iran's slowness in coming forward with a response to "a very good package of incentives."
Solana is keen to secure an Iranian response before the Paris meeting of the six nations as well as a summit of Group of Eight (G8) leaders in St Petersburg, Russia, on July 15.
The proposals put forward by Solana followed consultations with six key nations - Britain, France, Germany, the United States, China and Russia - involved in nuclear talks with Tehran.
The US and the EU accuse Iran of building nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran firmly denies.
The European offer includes a range of incentives for Iran, but also a stark warning that continued deadlock could mean the issue will be taken to the United Nations Security Council for discussions on possible sanctions.
Work on a Security Council resolution was suspended May 3 to allow the six powers to draw up the incentives plan if Iran agrees to a long-term moratorium on enrichment.
But the UN said the issue would be discussed again if Iran failed to respond to the international offer.
Subject: German news