AFP: EU negotiators Britain, Germany and France have turned down a Russian offer to host an EU-Iran meeting in Moscow next week on Iran’s disputed nuclear program, diplomats told AFP Thursday. VIENNA, Nov 17 (AFP) – EU negotiators Britain, Germany and France have turned down a Russian offer to host an EU-Iran meeting in Moscow next week on Iran’s disputed nuclear program, diplomats told AFP Thursday.
Russia had proposed the meeting for the European Union and Iran to “talk about getting back to talks,” a diplomat said, referring to negotiations on winning guarantees Tehran will not make nuclear weapons.
The talks collapsed last August when Iran resumed nuclear fuel work that it had earlier suspended in order to make the negotiations possible.
Iran on Wednesday began to convert a new batch of uranium ore into the gas that is the feedstock for enriching uranium into what can be reactor fuel or atom bomb material, defying international requests not to do so.
The UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had urged Iran in September not to resume uranium conversion, and is to meet on the matter next Thursday in Vienna.
“Moscow is off, so we go to the board without that kind of prelude,” a European diplomat said, referring to the IAEA’s board of governors’ meeting.
Russia, which has a lucrative contract to build Iran’s first nuclear power reactor, has taken a higher profile in the dispute by suggesting a compromise under which Tehran would be allowed uranium into the UF6 gas, but for actual enrichment of the gas to take place in Russia.
Iran insists on its right to the full nuclear fuel cycle.
The diplomat said Iran’s new conversion work was “a slap in the face” for efforts towards a compromise which Igor Ivanov, the head of Russia’s Security Council, had made in Tehran last weekend.
The Russians “had spent a lot of effort and had been given to understand that this pause (in conversion) would continue for some time,” the diplomat added.
In any case, senior officials from the so-called EU-3 and Russia will meet in London on Friday, diplomats said.
US Undersecretary of State Nick Burns is also attending the meeting and the five countries will continue their talks at dinner, where they will be joined by a Chinese official, a Western envoy said.
The Western diplomat said the EU three “are interested in exploring how to re-engage with the Iranians but not until after next week’s board meeting.
“The focus right now is on the board and on what action the board needs to take to keep effective pressure on Iran.”
Diplomats said the Iranians were holding a high-level meeting in Tehran on Thursday on how to negotiate on the nuclear issue.
“They’re supposed to have a policy conclave. Let’s see what comes out of it,” a diplomat said.