Iran, EU may renew nuclear negotiations

Larijani set to meet with Solana next week for first time since February.

The top negotiators for Iran and the major powers seeking to halt parts of its nuclear program are to meet Wednesday for the first time since February to assess the possibility of resuming negotiations, a European Union official said Friday. "The principle for the meeting is established. It will seek to see whether we can resume negotiations," said a European Union official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss it publicly. No further details for the meeting between EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and top Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani were announced. "It will not be negotiations in themselves. We will examine the possibilities of what can be done," the official said. "We have to meet and talk." Solana led largely unsuccessful international diplomatic efforts for months to persuade Iran to stop uranium enrichment before the UN first decided to impose sanctions in December. He last met with Larijani at a security conference in February in Munich, Germany. Solana negotiates on behalf of permanent UN Security Council members the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China, as well as Germany. Relations between both sides dipped further during the standoff over the seized British sailors and marines early this month. But hours after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced the crew's release, Larijani spoke by telephone with Solana. The two have had several phone contacts since, the official said. Iran has started feeding small amounts of uranium gas into centrifuges that can enrich it to weapons-grade level and is already running more than 1,300 of the machines, according to an International Atomic Energy Agency document obtained this week by The Associated Press. The confidential document - a letter to Iranian officials from a senior IAEA staff member - also protests an Iranian decision to prevent agency inspectors to visit the country's heavy water reactor that, when built, will produce plutonium. Enriched uranium and plutonium can both be used for the fissile core of nuclear warheads. Iran has steadfastly denied it plans to produce nuclear weapons, saying it only wants to generate energy. Last week, Iran said it had begun operating 3,000 centrifuges at its Natanz facility - nearly 10 times the previously known number. The US, Britain, France and others criticized the announcement, but experts - and several world powers - expressed skepticism that Iran's claims were true, and diplomats in Vienna familiar with the state of the program told the AP they were greatly exaggerated. The United Nations last month toughened sanctions on Iran over its failure to comply with the demand that it freeze enrichment of uranium. The 27 EU nations will discuss the issue again at their meeting of foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday. The world powers insist that Teheran must freeze its enrichment work before any talks can begin on a package of economic and other incentives, including assistance for its nuclear power generation program.