EU: Iran meeting likely in Turkey

Solana says US participation may lead to progress; Clinton: US delegate will insist on discussing nukes.

Solana Bildt 248.88 (photo credit: )
Solana Bildt 248.88
(photo credit: )
Talks on Iran's nuclear program will likely be held in Turkey, and full US participation may lead to progress in the negotiations, a senior EU official said. Casting aside conditions the Bush administration had set for talks, President Barack Obama's White House is pressing for progress after years of little movement on Iran's nuclear program. "The Americans will be present in a formalized manner. This is new," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Tuesday, referring to the meeting scheduled for Oct. 1. "I think that has to be evaluated positively by the Iranians." Solana said the meeting could help resolve the standoff over the Islamic Republic's refusal to freeze uranium enrichment and heed other UN Security Council demands. The US, Israel and the EU fear that Iran is using its nuclear program to develop nuclear weapons. But Teheran says the program serves purely civilian purposes and that it has the right to enrich uranium for use in nuclear power plants. The talks will be the first since a 2008 session in Geneva foundered over Iran's refusal to discuss enrichment. The US has announced that Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns - who was at the Geneva talks as an observer - would again represent the US But this time, EU officials said, Burns will be a full participant in the upcoming meeting, which will also include representatives of Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany. In Washington, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the American delegate to the talks would insist on discussing Iran's nuclear program. "I think it is important to underscore that we have made clear to the Iranians that any talks we participate in must address the nuclear issue head on," Clinton told reporters at the US State Department. "It cannot be ignored. Iran says it has a number of issues that it wishes to discuss with us but what we are concerned about is discussing with them the questions surrounding their nuclear program and ambitions." Solana and EU foreign ministers reiterated that they expected progress in the talks, otherwise the 27-nation bloc would push for new sanctions against Iran. "If those dialogues don't lead to a result, we will have to go toward UN sanctions, if we don't get UN sanctions then we will have to think about unilateral EU sanctions," Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb said. In Paris, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero warned that new sanctions against Iran remain an option and that Iran must make "concrete gestures" at the long-awaited discussions. He said the sanctions option remained on the table in case Teheran makes "an error of choice." "It is up to Iran to restore international confidence ... and show it is ready to seriously discuss its sensitive activities," Valero said at a press briefing. German and French officials have suggested new sanctions could include stiffer restrictions on the energy and financial sectors. Other possible measures include wider travel restrictions and freezing assets of Iranian officials. Israel also has urged the international community to opt for toughness in the talks, not compromise, and to impose harsh sanctions if the talks falter again. "If Iran doesn't take these talks seriously and miscalculates, then you have possibility of these sanctions," said Reva Bhalla, Director of Analysis at Stratfor, a US-based global intelligence firm. "Washington is under pressure from Israel, which sees a serious urgency on this issue and is not likely to drop the push for aggressive sanctions."