Tehran, EU wait each other for nuke talks
TEHRAN / PARIS
Iran’s nuclear negotiator Jalili (R) is seen with EU’s top diplomat Ashton. AFP photoIran and the European Union each said yesterday they were waiting on the other to take steps on resuming long-stalled negotiations over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program as France insisted that Iran is developing nuclear bombs and urged Europe to follow the U.S. lead by slapping an embargo on its oil exports and freezing its central bank assets by next month.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said that despite Tehran’s insistence that its nuclear program was exclusively for peaceful purposes, he was convinced “Iran is pursuing the development of its nuclear arms.” “I have no doubt about it... The last report by the International Atomic Energy Agency is quite explicit on this point,” he told French network i-Tele. “This is why France, without closing the path of negotiation and dialogue with Iran, wants stricter sanctions,” he added. Juppe said French President Nicolas Sarkozy has proposed freezing the assets of Iran’s central bank.
‘Iran has already given answer’
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said “we are waiting for a date and venue of the next meeting to be declared” by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who sent a letter last October proposing renewed talks. But a spokesman for Ashton, Michael Mann, immediately shot back, telling Agence France-Presse in Brussels that Iran “must first respond to the letter and then we’ll take it from there.” Ashton wrote her letter Oct. 21 to Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili offering to resume the negotiations that have been suspended since Jan. 2011. Although she has received no official reply from Tehran, Mehmanparast, in a briefing to reporters yesterday, said that “Iran has already given its response to Mrs Ashton.” “We are waiting for a date and venue of the next meeting to be declared by Mrs Ashton for negotiations between Iran and the 5+1 group,” he said. The 5+1 group comprises permanent U.N. Security Council members plus non-permanent member Germany.