"There's even talk of negotiations with the three European countries [Great Britain, France, and Germany] in the next few days," Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said in Moscow today.
News agency reports confirmed that European diplomats and officials have said that Larijani and other negotiators are coming to Vienna for talks.
The Iranian proposal is putting the EU countries in an awkward position. Some observers have said that the fact that the Europeans have agreed to high-level talks after Tehran restarted its nuclear program earlier this year can be interpreted as a victory for Tehran. But "The New York Times" today quoted one European official as saying, "We are not negotiating; we are only listening."
Russia As Middleman
The proposed Vienna meeting comes after negotiations in Moscow between Russian and Iran ended inconclusively. However, Larijani said on March 1 in Moscow that the talks between Russia and Iran would continue.
"There are good points and mutual agreement between us and the Russian Federation and therefore cooperation and consultation between our two countries will continue," he said.
Russia has proposed setting up a joint venture to enrich Iran's uranium on Russian territory. The proposal -- backed by Washington and the Europeans -- is widely seen as a compromise that would allow Iran to have a civilian nuclear program.
However, Larijani was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying after the Moscow talks that Iran would not stop its own uranium enrichment, even if a deal with Russia were reached.
U.S., Iran Facing Off
And Larijani today blamed the United States for trying to scuttle a Russian-Iranian proposal. He said that the United States's insistence on referring Iran to the UN Security Council for possible punitive sanctions was making it impossible to reach agreement.
"If American unilateralism doesn't interfere [with the negotiations], then I'm hopeful," he said. "I think the Americans say one thing [supporting Russia's proposals] and then, in practice, they try to sabotage the Russian plan."
While Tehran insists it wants only the ability to generate electricity, the United States says an enrichment capability could help it make bombs as well.
U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton said on March1 that the Security Council should act to ensure Iran can't produce nuclear weapons. Speaking at New York University, Bolton said that UN credibility is at stake.
"We are still deliberating exactly what steps to take in the Security Council, but it has been our view for some time that this is a real test for the Security Council," Bolton said. "If the Security Council can't deal with threats to international peace and security, caused by the proliferation of nuclear weapons, then one has to ask what the Security Council's function is in today's world."
Bolton made it clear that the United States would not compromise over its Iran stipulations.