Fri, Sep 08, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Iran's top nuclear negotiator arrives for talks in Spain


Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani arrived in Madrid yesterday for talks with Spanish leaders set to focus on the crisis over its nuclear program, Spanish diplomats and reports said.

Larijani was to meet with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos as well as Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

He was staying at the Ritz Hotel, where UN chief Kofi Annan has also taken a room during a trip to the Spanish capital, although UN and Spanish sources said the two men would not meet.

Larijani's surprise visit came a day after talks on Iran's suspect nuclear program with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, tentatively set for Wednesday in Vienna, were postponed.

A Spanish news agency yesterday quoted Larijani as saying he would meet with the EU foreign policy chief in two days time "somewhere in Europe" without giving further details.

Solana said yesterday he expected to hold nuclear talks with Iran "in the coming days."

Solana told reporters that a planned meeting in Vienna this week fell through because of calendar problems, "particularly from their side."

A senior Iranian envoy on Wednesday abruptly announced that the meeting between Solana and Larijani had been postponed. It had tentatively been set for the same day in Vienna.

In his first public comments since the Iranian announcement, Solana said that the two sides had never agreed on a fixed date.

"No meeting has been canceled, no meeting has been arranged at a fixed date," Solana said as he started a visit to Denmark. "I hope it will be held in the coming days."

He did not give any details on the time or place of the meeting.

"We had several dates potentially but we didn't fix an exact date," Solana said.

He said the Vienna plans fell through because of "problems of calendars from one side or the other side, particularly from their side."

The EU is hoping to give diplomacy one last chance to persuade Tehran to halt uranium enrichment in return for a package of incentives.

But Tehran has ignored an Aug. 31 deadline to halt enrichment, which can be used for both nuclear fuel as well as providing material for atomic bombs, insisting on its right to a peaceful nuclear program.

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