Iran denies blame for EU nuclear-talks failure

Iran was not to blame for the disappointment expressed by European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana after key talks in London on the nuclear crisis failed, chief negotiator Saeed Jalili said on Saturday.

“The fact is that we defended the Iranian nation’s rights and stressed fulfilling our duties and that the Iranian nation will not accept anything that goes beyond the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” he said.

“If some people have become disappointed because they cannot deprive Iran of its natural rights then this is another matter,” Jalili told reporters after arriving back in Tehran.

Solana said on Friday he was “disappointed” after the last-ditch talks in London failed to produce a breakthrough ahead of a key EU report on Iran’s controversial nuclear drive.

Solana’s advisor was due to brief the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany—the six powers involved in the dossier on Iran’s controversial nuclear programme—whose representatives were scheduled to meet in Paris on Saturday.

Jalili said the Iranian side had put forward three “good ideas” to the Europeans in the talks, adding that Solana had demanded such a move from Tehran in past negotiations.

These ideas included “joint cooperation for disarmament”, the “peaceful use of nuclear energy” and the “prevention of the expansion of nuclear defence proliferation”, he said.

The proposals appeared to be in line with past calls by Tehran on the West to destroy their own nuclear arsenals to help forge a breakthrough in the nuclear crisis.

“This cooperation was part of Mr Solana’s plan set out in the Lisbon meeting and he should have been more hopeful,” said Jalili.

Solana and Jalili’s predecessor, Ali Larijani, met in Lisbon in June, a meeting that both men hailed as constructive—a phrase conspicuously lacking after the London talks.

Iranian officials have repeatedly emphasised they have no intention of suspending uranium enrichment work, the main demand of the West to end the nuclear crisis.

The EU foreign policy chief made no attempt to hide his frustration after the five hours of discussions.

“I have to admit that after five hours of meetings I expected more, and therefore I am disappointed,” Solana told reporters.

“There was not enough new in order not to be disappointed,” Solana’s spokesperson, Cristina Gallach, added. “It was not what he expected.”

Jalili, by contrast, had described the talks in London as “good” although he went on to defiantly defend Iran’s nuclear rights at a press conference in the British capital.

Solana must report to the UN Security Council in the next days on Tehran’s willingness to comply with the council’s demand to freeze uranium enrichment.

The United States, which accuses Tehran of using its civilian nuclear programme as cover for a drive to develop an atomic bomb, wants a third set of UN sanctions against Iran to punish its defiance.

Iran strongly denies that charge, saying it wants only to generate electricity, and so far Washington’s diplomatic drive for tighter sanctions has being held up by Chinese and Russian reluctance.

Solana said the men would speak on the telephone by the end of December and would meet later “if the circumstances permit”.

However, Jalili said they would—at Solana’s suggestion—talk by telephone in mid-December to prepare for a meeting by the end of the month.

Larijani was seen by observers as a relative moderate in the nuclear stand-off but Jalili is a more intransigent figure who is a close ally of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The UN nuclear watchdog, in its latest report, said Iran was cooperating but also pressing ahead with uranium enrichment work.

International Atomic Energy Agency director general Mohamed ElBaradei has said the body is still unable to confirm that Iran’s nuclear programme is peaceful.—AFP

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