Iran keeps sparring with West over nuclear offer

Posted in Iran | 11-Jul-06 | Source: The Daily Star (Lebanon Edition)

European Union Foreign Affairs and Security Chief Policy Javier Solana, right, welcomes Secretary General of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council Ali Larijani, left, upon his arrival at the EU Council building in Brussels, Tuesday July 11, 2006.

The European Union hopes for a substantive response from Iranian nuclear negotiators today regarding a package of incentives offered to Tehran as a way of ending the standoff caused by its nuclear program, an official said.

"We want to hear the response of the Iranians," EU spokeswoman Cristina Gallach said Monday, referring to last Tuesday's meeting between EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani.

Solana is hoping for a positive reply from Larijani that he could present Wednesday in Paris at a conference of the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany, Russia, the United States and China.

The ministers will consider the Iranian response to the incentives package before the July 15-17 summit of the Group of Eight industrialized nations in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Last week, Larijani met with Solana for a private dinner after unexpectedly skipping formal talks supposed to have been held in Brussels a day earlier. EU officials described the dinner as "a good start" before this week's talks between delegations from Iran and the EU.

"We expect a continuation of the talks on Tuesday which had the objective to create conditions for negotiations," Gallach said.

US officials said, however, that Larijani had failed to come up with a long-awaited answer to the offer of nuclear expertise and reactors in exchange for a pledge by Iran to suspend uranium enrichment activities. He had also not committed his country to suspending uranium enrichment and starting negotiations on the six-power package, they said.

Iranian government officials have insisted that they need to clear up "ambiguities" contained in the package, and have brushed aside US demands that they respond before the Paris meeting on July 12.

"Tomorrow [Tuesday], we will not give a definite answer. We will only discuss questions and ambiguities regarding the offer," a senior Iranian official said Monday.

Asked if Iran would give a final response if Solana answered all the queries, the official said: "It is very unlikely."

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Sunday that Solana was not able to give answers to all of Iran's questions.

On the eve of the meeting, the EU also raised human rights concerns criticizing Iran's treatment of jailed philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo.

Iranian-Canadian Jahanbegloo was arrested in Tehran in May on spying charges and Iranian officials said in June he had no right to a lawyer because his detention was a "security case," an argument the EU rejected.

"The EU remains concerned about the apparent shortcomings in due process surrounding Dr. Jahanbegloo's arrest and detention, and calls on Iranian authorities to allow him immediate access to legal counsel," it said in a statement.

"The EU underlines the inherent unreliability of confessions made in prison without adequate legal safeguards," the statement added.

Jahanbegloo has worked and lectured on democracy in Iran and how the Islamic Republic can engage with the West, and has written on the importance of acknowledging the World War II Holocaust.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has questioned whether the massacre of Jews happened. - AP, Reuters