LAPPEENRANTA, Finland (Reuters) -European Union foreign ministers agreed on Saturday to give Iran two more weeks to clarify its stance on halting sensitive nuclear work after Tehran ignored a U.N. deadline to suspend uranium enrichment.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana will meet Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, next week to try to clear up ambiguities in Tehran’s 21-page reply to a major power offer of cooperation if it stops work that could help build a bomb.
Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel told Reuters after the 25 ministers discussed the issue at a meeting in Finland: “We give Solana two weeks for his clarification talks.”
Iran defied an August 31 deadline set by the United Nations Security Council for it to halt uranium enrichment and has given no sign it is prepared to meet the international community’s condition for opening negotiations on economic, technological and political cooperation.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted on Saturday by the ISNA student news agency as saying: “Our nation is a supporter of peace but it will not retreat an iota from its right to nuclear technology.”
EU ministers declined to talk publicly of sanctions if Tehran did not comply and stressed their preference for a solution through dialogue.
“Despite our intensive efforts of the last six months, there has up to today unfortunately been no signal of reciprocity from Iran,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters.
But he added: “We in the EU and Germany have no interest in an escalation in the coming days and weeks due to deliberations in the Security Council.
“That’s why we and the EU foreign policy chief will neglect no opportunity to keep trying to find out through talks whether there is a possibility to return to the negotiating table.”
French Europe Minister Catherine Colonna said it was important to continue the dialogue with Tehran while reminding Iran of the international community’s conditions.
Asked how long Iran had to comply with the Security Council’s demands on its nuclear program, she said: “Rendezvous in a few days.”