WORLD / Middle East

Iran wants to resume EU talks
Updated: 2006-05-30 23:04

Iran's foreign minister said Tuesday that Tehran is ready to restart negotiations with the European Union on its nuclear program, but he ruled out direct talks with the United States.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, center, smiles as he leaving the meeting hall after he is greeted by his Malaysia's counterpart Syed Hamid Albar, left, following the closing ceremony of the Ministerial Meeting of the Coordinating Bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Tuesday, May 30, 2006. [AP]

"I announce that Iran is ready to respond positively to the call" made by the Nonaligned Movement "for resuming the negotiations on Iran's nuclear issue without any preconditions," Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters.

"Accordingly, I would announce our readiness to restart immediately the negotiations with the EU Three to resolve the issues," he said, referring to Britain, France and Germany.

The announcement raised hopes that Iran would react positively to a planned package of incentives meant to convince it to abandon uranium enrichment. The package has been put together by the five permanent members of the

U.N. Security Council plus Germany.

The package was to be presented to Tehran by France, Britain and Germany the nations that broke off talks with Iran in August 2005 after it resumed activities linked to uranium enrichment.

The Security Council gave Iran until the end of April to suspend all such activities. But Iran announced last month it had for the first time successfully enriched uranium and was doing research on advanced centrifuges to produce more of the material in less time.

If Iran remains defiant and refuses to give up uranium enrichment, it could open the way for sanctions.

Mottaki said there was no question of direct talks with the United States, which accuses Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to produce nuclear weapons. Tehran has denied this, saying its nuclear program is merely to generate electricity.

"Because of the bad temperament of the Americans, for the time being we have suspended direct talks (with the U.S). After changing of the behavior we may consider again," said Mottaki, who was in Malaysia to attend a meeting of foreign ministers of the Nonaligned Movement, which ended Tuesday.

A meeting of the European foreign ministers, including Secretary of State

Condoleezza Rice, was set for Thursday in Vienna, said the diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were disclosing confidential information.

Indirectly linked to any possible deal for Iran would be agreement on a resolution tough enough for Washington but acceptable to Tehran ally Moscow, a dispute that has hobbled action by the Security Council's permanent members for months.

If Iran remains defiant, the proposal as outlined to AP by diplomats familiar with the text calls for a resolution imposing sanctions under Chapter 7, Article 41 of the U.N. Charter. But it avoids any reference to Article 42, which is the trigger for possible military action to enforce any such resolution.

The proposal also calls for new consultations among the five permanent Security Council members on any further steps against Iran a move meant to dispel complaints by the Russians and Chinese that once the screws on Iran are tightened, the council would automatically move toward military involvement.

Among the possible sanctions are a visa ban on government officials, the freezing of assets, blocking financial transactions by government figures and those involved in the country's nuclear program, an arms embargo and a blockade on the shipping of refined oil products to Iran.

If Tehran agrees to suspend enrichment, enter new negotiations on its nuclear program and lift a ban on intrusive inspections by the

International Atomic Energy Agency, rewards would include agreement to "suspend discussion of Iran's file at the Security Council," as well as help in building a peaceful domestic nuclear program that uses an outside supply of enriched uranium.


Related Stories