EU's Solana, Iranian Negotiator to Meet Soon

Mr. Solana answers international journalists before an EU meeting on Iran's nuclear

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani are to meet "face to face" soon after speaking by telephone Thursday, Solana's office said.

During the call, "they agreed to have a face-to-face meeting soon", an official in Solana's office said, but was unable to say when or where the meeting would take place.

An unnamed Iranian official told the ISNA news agency in Tehran on Wednesday that Larijani would meet Solana in Europe next week for talks on an offer from world powers over Iran's nuclear programme.

The United Nations Security Council has given Iran until Thursday to halt uranium enrichment or risk possible sanctions, amid fears in the West that its nuclear programme may be a cover for efforts to build a nuclear bomb.

Although time ran out to meet the deadline, the official in Solana's office said that "the lines of communication are always open".

Solana is to meet with European foreign ministers on Friday in Finland to try to hammer out a response to Iran's refusal to suspend nuclear activities -- an impasse which threatens to lay waste to long months of EU diplomatic efforts.

The EU must now decide whether to respond to Tehran's offer for new talks, well aware that negotiations so far have proved unsatisfactory, or head down the path of sanctions, favored by the United States.

Iran maintains that it is exercising its right to develop civilian atomic energy, but many fear that it is really trying to build a nuclear bomb.

EU powers Britain, France and Germany, along with Solana, have led efforts to convince Iran to accept a package of political and economic incentives in exchange for suspending enrichment.

But with the deadline past, the United States believes it is time to pass from the carrot to the stick. The State Department said Wednesday that the major UN powers will meet in Europe next week to discuss sanctions.

Source: AFP

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