Google News 26/8/2006
EU hopes for further Iran dialogue
By Daniel Dombey in Brussels and Delphine Strauss in Paris
Published: August 25 2006 17:37 | Last updated: August 25 2006 17:37
Europe’s leaders on Friday sought to tone down the looming confrontation over Iran’s nuclear programme after Russia made clear it did not favour sanctions against Tehran. Politicians and diplomats from several EU countries held out the prospect of further talks with Iran, despite their disappointment with Tehran’s response to an international offer to freeze the most sensitive part of its programme.
On Friday, both Javier Solana, EU foreign policy chief, and diplomats from leading EU countries evoked the possibility of further talks, while Jacques Chirac, the French president, carefully described the Iranian response as “ambiguous”.
“We would like to have some talks with the leadership of Iran before we can come out with the complete response to that document,” Mr Solana told Spanish radio. “I hope to do that before the end of the month.” He also raised the possibility of technical talks.
“We don’t want a confrontation with Iran so, if there is the possibility of negotiations, we don’t exclude that,” added a French diplomat.
This is despite the fact that Iran’s response this week failed to give the commitment most sought by the Europeans – that it would suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can generate both nuclear fuel and weapons grade material. In return the international offer had promised improved economic and diplomatic ties, including the lifting of some US sanctions.
While Iran insists its intentions are peaceful, the US and the EU fear it is moving closer to developing nuclear weapons.
Tehran also brushed aside a United Nations Security Council resolution which both called on it to halt enrichment by August 31 and threatened sanctions as an alternative.
European diplomats acknowledge they are constrained by Russia’s continuing resistance to sanctions, since Moscow wields a Security Council veto.
On Friday, Sergei Ivanov, Russia’s defence minister, said the situation “was not so serious at the moment for the UN Security Council...to consider any introduction of sanctions”.
EU officials are also fearful of dismissing Iran’s response out of hand, particularly because of Tehran’s indications that it could eventually suspend enrichment as a result of negotiations. Some regime insiders have also intimated that they could eventually limit such activities to laboratory work rather than carrying it out on an industrial scale.
“We need to be cautious about this because there is no point just throwing it out of court,” said a European diplomat.
The next step in the process is set to come when the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, reports this Thursday on Iran’s likely failure to comply with the UN deadline. After that, the issue will be discussed again at the Security Council.