Iran postpones nuclear talks
By Parisa Hafezi and Paul Taylor
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Iran postponed crucial nuclear talks
with the European Union on Wednesday in apparent anger at an
exiled opposition leader’s visit to the European Parliament,
but the meeting will go ahead on Thursday.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who last month put
to Tehran a package of incentives offered by major powers for
it to give up uranium enrichment, voiced surprise and
impatience after a phone call with the chief Iranian nuclear
“I was surprised to hear that Ali Larijani … has decided
at the last minute to postpone his trip to Brussels as
previously agreed with him to take place today,” Solana said in
“I have made clear to the Iranians and to Dr Larijani that
we want to proceed rapidly to examine the ideas I put to him
early last month.”
Solana said he would meet Larijani in Brussels on Thursday
and again on July 11, keeping up Western pressure for a clear
answer before leaders of the Group of Eight industrial powers
meet in St Petersburg on July 15.
Iran, suspected by Western officials of playing for time
and trying to divide the international community, has said it
will give its response by August 22.
Larijani’s deputy, Javad Vaeedi, told Reuters the Iranian
negotiator had accepted an invitation to a private dinner with
Solana on Thursday, and they would hold official talks in
Brussels next Tuesday. He gave no reason for the postponement.
But an EU diplomat said the Iranians had cited a visit to
the European Parliament in Strasbourg on the same day by the
leader of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, described
by Tehran as a terrorist group.
Asked whether the visit by Maryam Rajavi was the reason for
the sudden postponement, an Iranian official told Reuters: “It
could have had a negative impact on the meeting.”
Rajavi, who is based in France and whose organization is
the political wing of the outlawed People’s Mujahideen armed
group, was invited to the legislature by a cross-party group of
EU lawmakers who call themselves “Friends of a Free Iran.”
Rajavi held a news conference at the EU legislature in the
eastern French city but canceled plans to meet parliamentary
groups in what she said was an attempt to avoid giving the
Iranian authorities an excuse to stop the nuclear talks.
“I wish to remove any pretext that the mullahs might have
and I wish to make negotiations possible for the international
community, and that is why I have asked that the meetings be
deferred,” she told journalists.
Rajavi’s group was the first to publish details of Iran’s
clandestine nuclear enrichment programme in 2002.
Diplomats said divisions in the U.N. Security Council over
what action to take on Iran meant there had been little chance
of Tehran responding either at the Brussels meetings or before
the G8 summit in Russia.
The United States has accused Iran of having a secret
program to build nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge,
saying its nuclear programme is solely for power generation.
Iran says it sees ambiguities in the June 6 offer by
Germany and the five permanent, veto-wielding U.N. Security
Council members — the United States, Britain, France, Russia
The major powers offered a state-of-the-art nuclear reactor
with a guaranteed fuel supply, economic benefits and support
for the idea of a regional security framework if Iran halted
Diplomats say that as Russia and China are unlikely to back
any U.N. sanctions against Iran at this stage, the West is in
no position to set deadlines.