Iran's nuclear defiance is the thrust of Thursday's talks in Berlin by US
Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns and counterparts from the other five
powers - Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.
In Denmark, meanwhile the European Union's foreign policy chief said Thursday
he expects to hold nuclear talks with Iranian nuclear envoy Ali Larijani "in the
coming days." Javier Solana did not give any details on the time or place of the
The talks are considered a final attempt to see if there is common ground to
start negotiations between Iran and the six powers.
Larijani, meanwhile, was in Spain on Thursday for talks with Prime Minister
Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. U.N. Secretary-General
Kofi Annan is also
in Spain for talks with Zapatero, but it was not immediately known if he and
Larijani will meet.
Iran's unyielding stance appears to be based on the calculation that
sanctions will be opposed by Russia and China, both veto-wielding Security
Council members that have major commercial ties with Tehran.
On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said any sanctions must
exclude military force, suggesting Moscow was contemplating the possibility of
sanctions but remained opposed to harsh and quick punishment.
Lavrov said the Security Council's recent resolution on the issue holds out
the possibility of further measures on Iran such as economic penalties, banning
air travel or breaking diplomatic relations, but not the use of armed force.
"This article envisages measures to exert influence on a country that is not
cooperating, including economic ones, but it is written unambiguously there that
this excludes any kind of forceful measures of influence," ITAR-Tass quoted him
U.S. and European diplomats have said they are focusing at first on low-level
punishment such as travel bans on Iranian officials or a ban on the sale of
dual-use technology, to win backing from Russia and China.
More extreme sanctions would be a freeze on Iranian assets or a broader trade
ban, but those would likely be opposed by Russia, China and perhaps others,
particularly since the trade ban could cut off badly-needed oil exports from
Iran insists it has a right to enrich for generation of nuclear power. But
suspicions are growing it wants to develop the technology to enrich uranium to
the weapons-grade level for the fissile core of nuclear