June 28, 2006

EU-Iran nuclear meeting postponed until after G8

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A meeting between European Union
foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran's top nuclear
negotiator has been postponed until after Group of Eight
foreign ministers meet on Thursday, an EU diplomat said on

Solana will meet Ali Larijani somewhere in Europe next week
to clarify a U.S.-backed package of incentives for Tehran to
stop sensitive nuclear research that the West fears is aimed at
producing a bomb, the diplomat said.

No reason was given for the delay. Both Solana and Larijani
had said publicly they would meet this week and diplomats said
Western governments were concerned Tehran was trying to string
out its response to divide the major powers.

The European Union, the United States, Russia and China
have warned Iran that the U.N. Security Council will act
against it if it does not suspend uranium enrichment, but they
have set no firm deadline and Moscow and Beijing oppose

The Western powers have called for a clear Iranian reply in
"weeks, not months" and indicated informally it should come
before a G8 summit in Russia on July 15-16.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said last week Iran would
reply before August 22, causing exasperation in Washington and
London. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday
Iran had nothing to gain from talks with the United States.

Diplomats said the G8 countries were debating the wording
of a statement on Iran for Thursday's foreign ministers'
session in Moscow, which might give some indication of a
desired timetable.

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett warned on
Tuesday of the risk of being sucked into talks about talks.

"What I think there would be some concern about ... if we
appeared that we were entering into a period of negotiation
about negotiations," she told parliament.

The White House reacted calmly to Khamenei's comments,
saying what counted was Larijani's official response to Solana
on the European package of political, economic and
technological incentives.

Washington has offered to join the EU's talks with Iran if
Tehran verifiably suspends all enrichment-related activity.