July 7, 2006

EU hails “good start” to Iran nuclear talks

By Mark John

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union said talks with
Iran late on Thursday on a package of incentives to end a
nuclear standoff were constructive and laid the basis for a
fuller response by Tehran at a second meeting due next week.

"It's a good start for what we expect will be a positive
meeting on July 11," Cristina Gallach, spokeswoman for EU
foreign policy chief Javier Solana said of his two-hour meeting
with Iran chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani.

"We expect on Tuesday that they will be able to give us a
substantial response," she said by telephone on Friday of a
long-awaited reply to a package of technology, trade and other
incentives for Iran to halt uranium enrichment.

Asked whether the EU was confident Iran would comply with
Western demands for a full answer by a summit of Group of Eight
industrial powers in St Petersburg on July 15, she said:

"We want to create the conditions for the start of
negotiations as soon as possible ... I have always said we are
not using the word 'deadlines'," she said, adding the summit
and an earlier meeting of major power foreign ministers on July
12 were nonetheless key dates.

She gave no details on the content of the talks between
Solana and Larijani, which she described as a "tete-a-tete"
meeting with just an interpreter, saying only that Solana
stressed the benefit to Iran of accepting the offer.

Solana is due to host Larijani for a second round of talks
in Brussels on July 11 with the countries behind the offer, the
five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus
Germany, also to be present at the meeting.

They have offered Iran a state-of-the-art nuclear reactor
with a guaranteed fuel supply, economic benefits and other
incentives if it halts uranium enrichment.


Larijani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security
Council, told reporters before meeting Solana he would give a
preliminary response next week.

"We are serious about continuing negotiations and will
start next Tuesday with talks," he told reporters.

A U.S. official later told State Department reporters in an
email that Larijani had not responded to the proposal during
his first meeting with Solana.

U.N. nuclear watchdog head Mohamed ElBaradei warned Iran on
Wednesday the world was running out of patience because it had
not replied to the proposals.

"The Iranian counterpart authorities told me that they need
some time to provide the response," ElBaradei, who heads the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told reporters in
Ankara after talks with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

"I think they need to make sure that everybody in Iran is
on board. But by saying that I hope that Iran also understands
that the international community is getting somewhat impatient.
The earlier they can provide an answer is better for

The United States has accused Iran of having a secret
program to build nuclear weapons. Iran, the world's fourth
largest oil exporter, denies the charge and says its nuclear
work is solely for power generation.

Iran postponed talks with Solana in Brussels on Wednesday
in apparent anger at an exiled opposition leader's visit to the
European parliament, but Larijani said he had agreed to meet
Solana for a private dinner Thursday "out of respect."

Diplomats say that since Russia and China are unlikely to
back any U.N. sanctions against Iran at this stage, there is
little pressure on Tehran to respond either at the Brussels
talks or before the G8 summit in Russia.

(Additional reporting by Zerin Elci in Ankara)