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Delays In EU-Iran Nuclear Talks A Sign Of Divisions In Tehran Says US

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana (R) shakes hands with top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani 09 September 2006 at the Chancellery in Vienna. Photo courtesy of Bernard J. Holzner and AFP.
by Staff Writers
New York (AFP) Sep 20, 2006
The repeated postponement of a new round of negotiations between the major powers and Iran over its uranium enrichment program signals a "great debate" in Tehran over the country's nuclear future, a senior US official said. The negotiations between EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, representing the major UN powers, and Iran's main nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, were due to resume in New York early this week on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

The talks focus on a package of rewards offered to Iran in June by the five permanent UN security council members plus Germany in the event that Tehran agrees to give up its enrichment program, which many believe is aimed at producing nuclear weapons.

But Iran announced Wednesday that Larijani, whose arrival here was initially expected Saturday and then postponed to mid-week, would not meet with Solana until next week in an unidentified European capital.

"We may be seeing a great debate in Iran about how to react to the proposal made three months ago by the permanent five countries plus Germany," said the senior US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"We understand that Iran is not a monolithic entity -- there are lots of voices, there are lots of views being expressed publicly," he said.

In a policy turnaround, the United States on Tuesday endorsed the Solana-Larijani negotiating track, after arguing fruitlessly for weeks that it was necessary to move beyond talks and impose sanctions on Iran as called for in a UN Security Council resolution.

The resolution gave Iran until August 31 to suspend its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities or face sanctions.

Iran has so far refused, insisting the program is designed solely to supply fuel for a civilian nuclear power industry.

Washington has been unable to convince its coalition partners to move ahead with sanctions, with French President Jacques Chirac becoming the latest leader this week to balk at punishing Tehran until all negotiating options had been explored.

But at a meeting Tuesday night, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice obtained an agreement from fellow foreign ministers from six nations plus Italy to set a firm new time limit for the Solana-Larijani talks, officials said.

US officials have declined to publicise the new deadline, but a European diplomat said Solana had been given until the first week of October to achieve success.

If the deadline is not met, the seven agreed to move ahead on a new UN resolution imposing sanctions on Iran, the senior US official said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

Related Links
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Major Powers Give Iran Until Early October To Accept Nuclear Deal
United Nations (AFP) Sep 20, 2006
The major powers have given Iran a new deadline of early October to suspend uranium enrichment and begin negotiations on a package of rewards for stepping back from a nuclear showdown, a senior European diplomat said Wednesday.







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