Monday, July 14, 2008

Iran and EU to Discuss Nuclear Negotiations

Iran said on Monday its top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana will this week discuss a "timetable" for future negotiations to break the deadlock in the atomic crisis.

"In these talks (between Jalili and Solana) the framework of talks and timetable of talks" will be discussed, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in an interview with state television.

Pressed about the length of the timetable, Ahmadinejad said it did not matter whether it lasted for four weeks, six weeks or eight weeks, without giving further details.

"Maybe it is four weeks, maybe it eight weeks. It depends on the trend of the talks. There was never an emphasis from each side on this."

Jalili and Solana are due to meet in Geneva on Saturday.

Media reports say world powers have offered Iran to start pre-negotiations over a six-week period during which Tehran would add no more uranium-enriching centrifuges and in return no further sanctions would be imposed.

"The agenda of the (Jalili-Solana) talks includes topic (for future talks), timetable, how the decision in each phase is taken and the negotiating partners. In these talks it will be determined," Ahmadinejad said.

He said Iran was prepared to hold talks with any country over the nuclear crisis, except its arch-enemy Israel, implying it would be prepared to hold negotiations with the United States.

Solana last month presented on behalf of world powers a package that aimed to end the nuclear crisis, offering Tehran technological incentives if it suspended sensitive uranium enrichment operations.

Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders have repeatedly vowed that Tehran will never suspend enrichment as demanded by world powers, which fear Iran could use the process to make a nuclear weapon.

But Tehran has never ruled out accepting the so-called "freeze-for-freeze" in a pre-negotiation phase to build trust between the two sides.

The idea was not contained in the formal offer handed to Iran by Solana and made public by the European Union. Until Ahmadinejad's comments, few officials from either side had spoken of it. The renewed diplomatic efforts come after Iran last week intensified tensions in the nuclear standoff by conducting two days of missile tests, which included the firing of a missile that it says can reach Israel.

The United States and its regional ally Israel have never ruled out a military attack to end Iran's controversial nuclear work, which the West fears could be used to make weapons -- a charge vehemently denied by Iran.

Iran's defiant refusal to suspend enrichment has seen it hit by three sets of UN Security Council sanctions as well as unilateral US and European measures against its financial system.

Source: IC Publications

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