Spanish communist leader and former head of NATO, Javier Solana, chief architect of the Iran dispute
World powers, including Russia, threatened “further appropriate measures” on Wednesday if Iran failed to comply with U.N. resolutions demanding that it suspend nuclear enrichment.
Iran reiterated it would not bow to U.N. Security Council demands to suspend uranium enrichment over Western fears it is developing nuclear arms. The world’s fourth biggest oil exporter says its nuclear program is only for power generation.
Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani is due to hold talks on Thursday with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana on the long-running dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program. Diplomats do not expect a breakthrough.
“Should Iran continue not to heed the call of the Security Council, we shall support further appropriate measures as agreed in Resolution 1747,” the Group of Eight (G8) foreign ministers said in a statement issued at a meeting in Potsdam, Germany.
The term “appropriate measures” is widely seen as diplomatic code for sanctions. The U.N. has already imposed two rounds of sanctions on Iran for failing to suspend uranium enrichment, a process of purifying uranium for power plants or weapons.
Besides major Western powers and Japan, the G8 grouping of leading industrialized nations also includes Russia, which has backed previous U.N. resolutions in the past while stressing Iran’s right to a peaceful nuclear program.
The G8 countries also said they “deeply deplore the fact that, as evidenced by the (International Atomic Energy Agency) Director General’s latest report to the Security Council, Iran has expanded its enrichment program.”
Security Council resolution 1747 gave Tehran a 60-day deadline to freeze all enrichment work. Iran ignored the deadline, which expired last week.
Solana told reporters in Berlin Thursday’s meeting with Larijani in Madrid might run into Friday.
“We have not even started negotiations,” he said. “This is paving the way for negotiations. I cannot give you a preview of what is going to happen, but I hope very much that we will be able to move the preparations for the actual negotiations.”
The meeting between Larijani and Solana, acting on behalf of world powers, will be the first since U.S. and Iranian officials held rare face-to-face discussions in Iraq, although atomic affairs were not on the agenda in Baghdad.
The United States, which accuses Iran of seeking to build an atomic bomb, has been leading efforts to isolate it over its nuclear program and also says it is stirring up violence in Iraq. Iran denies both charges.
“Suspension is not a solution to Iran’s nuclear issue … Iran cannot accept suspension,” Larijani told reporters before departing for Madrid.
“We have no conditions and we are ready for constructive talks but we will not accept any preconditions. We are ready to remove concerns over Iran’s atomic issue.”
On arrival in Madrid, he said: “We have walked on a long path relatively in our talks with Mr. Solana and we basically understand each others’ principles of thinking.”
Mark Fitzpatrick, chief non-proliferation analyst at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies and a former senior U.S. State Department official, said: “I do not expect much. The two sides remain very far apart.
Previous meetings have failed to persuade Tehran to obey U.N. resolutions demanding it halt enrichment.
“We are ready to hold talks without preconditions, any day, any time, but (the Europeans) should change their logic and use this opportunity which Iran has created for constructive talks. Previous methods will lead them nowhere,” Larijani said.
“We are not against discussing such solutions during talks, but the ground should be paved for Iran to continue its nuclear work.”
He said Iran was staying within regulations laid down by the IAEA. The U.N. watchdog says Iran has failed to answer questions to clarify its intentions with the nuclear program.
Iran temporarily halted enrichment under a previous deal with the EU, but that pact collapsed in 2005.
Solana is empowered by the five permanent Security Council members — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — plus Germany and the EU to explore the scope for formal talks on a package of economic, technological and political initiatives if Iran suspends enrichment.