PARIS, (Reuters) – Iran said it would defend its right to nuclear technology as senior officials from the world’s most powerful countries gathered on Saturday to discuss imposing sanctions against it over its nuclear programme.
The five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany agreed in September to delay passing further U.N. sanctions against Iran until the end of November, pending reports on a probe by the U.N. nuclear watchdog and an EU mediation effort. But EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he was disappointed after a Friday meeting in London with Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, which had been seen as a last chance to avert U.S. pressure for more U.N. sanctions against Iran over its disputed atomic programme.
Senior officials from the six powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — were scheduled to begin talks in Paris around 1330 GMT.
The six have said they will pass a new U.N. resolution on Iran if there is no progress over Tehran’s nuclear programme by December. But they remain at odds over how soon to resort to more U.N. penalties and how harsh they should be.
Russia and China, and to a lesser extent Germany, have close commercial ties with Iran and have taken a less hawkish approach than the United States, Britain and France.
Iran denies seeking to build an atomic bomb, saying its nuclear plans are peaceful. It insists it will not suspend uranium enrichment as demanded by the U.N. Security Council on the grounds that it is a national right.
Enrichment is the part of Iran’s programme that most worries the West because it has both civilian and military uses.
Asked how Iran would respond if Solana gave a negative report, Jalili said on his return from London: “We expect a positive report but, anyhow, we will react accordingly to safeguard our nation’s rights as a signatory of the NPT (nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) within the framework of the NPT.” He did not say what action Iran would take if a third U.N. sanctions resolution was passed. But Iranian officials have said previously Iran could review its cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Asked if he expected another U.N. resolution against Iran, Jalili said: “Currently there is a positive atmosphere based on the (IAEA’s) report and our logical behaviour within the framework of the NPT but there are a few powers that had pre-judgments to act against our logical behaviour.”
Iran is working with the IAEA on a plan agreed in August to answer outstanding questions about its nuclear programme.
IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei, summarising his report on Iran to the agency’s 35-nation governing board, said in November Tehran was now making “good progress” towards resolving long outstanding questions by the end of this year.
Jalili told reporters Solana had proposed holding a telephone conversation in mid-December to set a date for another meeting before the end of December. According to an EU statement Solana said the two men would remain in phone contact and meet again “if circumstances permit.”