Wed, Sep 16, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Iran nuclear talks likely in Turkey: Solana

REUTERS , BRUSSELS

Talks between world powers and Tehran on Iran’s nuclear program will likely be in Turkey, the chief Western negotiator said yesterday, while urging Iran to respond positively to US engagement in the process.

“I think very likely it will be Turkey,” EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who has headed the Western negotiating effort with Iran, told reporters in Brussels when asked where the Oct. 1 talks would take place.

Solana said Western policy remained “twin track” — to offer incentives to Iran to abandon a nuclear program the West suspects is aimed at producing nuclear weapons, while holding out the threat of further sanctions.

But he said now was not the time to talk about fresh sanctions.

“At this point in time we are going to try to enter into negotiations,” he said. “Let’s talk about that.”

Iran has agreed to wide-ranging talks with six world powers but has ruled out discussing its nuclear activities, which it says are for peaceful generation of electricity.

The US and the EU insist Tehran’s nuclear efforts must be the focus of the talks, the first on the issue since July last year.

Solana, who has been representing the six powers — the US, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia — in long-running efforts to resolve the row with Tehran, was cautious when asked how much he thought the new talks could achieve.

But he urged Tehran to take advantage of stepped-up US engagement in the talks process under the administration of US President Barack Obama.

“I always intend to try and achieve as much as possible in the negotiations. But it is not the first time we meet. We know each other well,” he said.

“There are some things that are new: the Americans will be present in a formalized manner; that is new, and I think that has to be evaluated positively by the Iranians,” he said.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Burak Ozugergin confirmed Turkey had offered to host the meeting.

“We are entering a critical period that should be used wisely,” he said.

Turkey said earlier this year it was trying to bridge US-Iranian differences.

A senior Iranian official said on Monday that Tehran would not negotiate on its “sovereign right” to nuclear energy but, if that were recognized, Iran was ready to discuss any issue at the talks, including ways of upholding non-proliferation globally.

A senior US official on Monday called Iran’s agreement to enter talks an “important first step,” but the White House said Iran would show its failure to meet international obligations if it stuck to its refusal to discuss its nuclear program.

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