Larijani, Solana report progress in Iran nuclear talks

Iranian, EU negotiators to meet again in 2 weeks to discuss possibility that powers will consider allowing Teheran to maintain partial enrichment.

Ali Larijani 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Ali Larijani 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Senior Iranian and Western envoys on Wednesday scheduled a new round of talks in two weeks after speaking of progress in trying to break the deadlock over Teheran's refusal to meet UN Security Council demands that it freeze its uranium enrichment program. EU senior foreign policy chief Javier Solana and senior Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani spoke after their second meeting of the day - unscheduled dinner talks that documented potential headway in the dispute even before the announcement of a new round in coming weeks. "We will have some talks tomorrow and in two weeks," Larijani told reporters, at the end of Wednesday's two rounds of discussions, that ran close to six hours. He described Wednesday's discussions as "pleasant talks." Solana spoke of a "very constructive dinner," adding the talks "will continue tomorrow and in the coming weeks also." Their comments added to expectations that they might be able to find enough common ground to restart negotiations that broke down over the enrichment issue in September. Foreign government officials told The Associated Press ahead of their meetings that the six powers negotiating with Iran - Russia, the US, China, France, Britain and Germany - may be willing to allow Iran to keep some of its uranium enrichment program intact, instead of demanding it be completely dismantled. Recognizing that Iran would never accept a complete freeze, the six powers were considering "a new definition of enrichment" that could allow Iran to keep some of its program without actually producing enriched uranium, one diplomat said on condition of anonymity. US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack denied that the United States was "considering any proposals that would allow the Iranians to retain any enrichment-related activities." But another US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, suggested there potentially was more flexibility in Washington's position than previously. "We purposely left open the possibility that direct talks could happen by being a little less committed to the requirements to have a meeting," the official said. He alluded to previous demands of an all-encompassing freeze on all enrichment-related activities. Iran is running more than 1,300 centrifuge machines at its underground facility at Natanz. Its ultimate goal is to run 50,000 centrifuges a year, enough to churn out material for a network of nuclear power generators - or a full-scale nuclear weapons program. The US might ultimately accept allowing a set number of centrifuges to remain assembled in series, but not running, a diplomat said. Iran, he said, would likely push for keeping the machines operating, if not producing enriched uranium. The six powers also want to reduce the number of hooked-up centrifuges to less than 1,000. A European official said hopes were that both sides could agree on at least "a different definition of suspension that we can work with."