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Iran, EU To Hold Talks On Nuclear Standoff

Javier Solana (left) and Ali Larijani at a meeting last year in Berlin (epa) May 31, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- European Union foreign-policy chief Javier Solana and Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, are due to discuss the standoff over Iran's nuclear program today in Madrid.

No breakthrough is expected at today's talks, which are aimed at exploring whether there is a chance to resume negotiations over Iran's controversial nuclear program.

Suspension Before Talks

Ahead of the talks, Iran once again ruled out suspending uranium enrichment, which is a key demand of the international community. The process can be used in both civilian and military nuclear program.

China and Russia are permanent members of the UN Security Council and have veto power over any resolution.

Brussels and Washington have made it clear that Iran needs to suspend its uranium-enrichment program before formal talks can begin.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice confirmed that today in Vienna, saying that Iran must change its nuclear tactics and agree to freeze uranium enrichment.

On May 30, Larijani said suspending enrichment is not the right solution for solving Iran's nuclear crisis. However, he added that Tehran is determined to resolve the crisis.

"We have no conditions for talks; we are ready to have constructive talks without any preconditions, and our aim is to resolve the issue," he said.

Purely Peaceful?

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. But Western countries are concerned that Iran could use its civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop nuclear weapons.

The UN Security Council has called on Iran to halt its uranium-enrichment activities, but the International Atomic Energy Agency said on May 23 that Iran has actually expanded enrichment activities.

On May 30, world powers including Russia threatened "further appropriate measures" if Iran failed to comply with UN resolutions demanding that it suspend uranium enrichment.

The UN has already imposed two regimes of sanctions against Iran over its refusal to comply with the UN's demand.

On May 24, U.S. President George W. Bush said he wants further sanctions against Iran.

More Sanctions Possible

"We will work with our European partners to develop further sanctions," he said. "And, of course, I will discuss this issue with [Russian President] Vladimir Putin, as well as [Chinese] President Hu Jintao. The first thing that these leaders have got to understand is that an Iran with a nuclear weapon would be incredibly destabilizing for the world."

China and Russia are permanent members of the UN Security Council and have veto power over any resolution. Both countries have economic interests in Iran and they have, in the past, resisted imposing tougher sanctions against the Islamic republic.

The Solana-Larijani talks come more than a month after both sides held similar talks in Ankara on April 25.

The details of the meeting were not made public but both sides reported some progress.

Negotiations between Iran and the EU broke down in 2006 when Tehran rejected a package of economic incentives -- including aid in establishing a peaceful nuclear power industry -- in exchange for a halt to its uranium-enrichment activities.

RFE/RL Iran Report

RFE/RL Iran Report

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