EU invites Iran to nuclear talks in mid-November
Iran has said it is ready for talks but set conditions.
October 15, 2010 8:52 by Reuters
The European Union invited Iran on Thursday to three-day talks on its nuclear programme in Vienna in mid-November, hoping to restart discussions with six major powers that stalled a year ago.
Iran said this month it was ready to hold talks with the six powers — the United States, Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany — in late October or early November.
But Tehran has set conditions and did not immediately respond to the offer by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on behalf of the major powers.
“High Representative Ashton today officially proposed to Iran that these talks should take place over three days in mid-November,” said a spokesman for Ashton following the signs that nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili was willing to meet.
“The High Representative has proposed Vienna as a possible venue for these talks. High Representative Ashton hopes Mr. Jalili will respond positively and looks forward to constructively engaging with Iran next month.”
Talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany have been frozen since they broke down in October last year, leading to a toughening of international sanctions.
The United States and its European allies fear Iran’s civilian nuclear energy programme is a cover to develop the capability of producing nuclear weapons.
Iran says it needs nuclear fuel-making technology to generate electricity and denies it is developing atomic arms.
EXCHANGE OF LETTERS
Jalili wrote to Ashton on July 6, calling for a resumption of talks, and Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Oct. 9 that late October or early November was an approriate time for the talks.
But Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has set conditions for further talks. He says a greater variety of countries should be involved, the parties must say whether they seek friendship or hostility with Iran, and must express a view on Israel’s alleged nuclear arsenal.
Officials travelling with Ahmadinejad, who was on a visit to Lebanon, declined to comment on the latest EU invitation.
The West is wary of what it sees as Iranian efforts to dodge the main issue in talks, buying time for advances in uranium enrichment, part of the process involved in making nuclear arms.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said after a NATO meeting in Brussels that he hoped talks would resume on more than just nuclear issues
“Hopefully talks will start on a substantial basis. I hope to see talks that are concrete and fruitful,” he said.
“I was from the beginning in favour of restarting talks on concrete cooperation with Iran, not limited to the nuclear programme but possibly extended to human rights dialogue.”
(Reporting by Timothy Heritage, editing by Myra MacDonald)