TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran will put forward “new initiatives” at talks this week but will not suspend sensitive nuclear work as demanded by the United Nations, an Iranian official was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili meets European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, representing six world powers, for talks in London on Friday on Iran’s atomic plans, which the West says are aimed at building nuclear bombs.
An Iranian refusal to modify its stand could bring a third round of tougher sanctions closer. The United States is pressing for sanctions but Russia and China, also permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, are resisting such a step.
Two sets of mild sanctions have been slapped on Iran so far.
The United States and its European allies say Iran must suspend uranium enrichment, a process with both military and civilian uses, to enable negotiations on a solution that would include trade benefits for Tehran, or face further penalties.
“Suspension means moving backwards and it is not on Iran’s agenda any longer. Negotiations must move forward. Jalili has new words and initiatives which will be presented in his meeting with Solana,” government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham said, according to the official IRNA news agency.
Iran suspended enrichment before President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005 but has since resumed the work which it insists is a national right and aimed only at mastering technology to make electricity, not bombs.
Ahmadinejad has repeatedly vowed not to return to suspension and called those advocating such a step “traitors”. But the final say in Iran’s nuclear policy and other matters of state lies with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Jalili has said he has “new ideas” for talks with Solana but has not given details.
“If the Iranians say they have ideas, excellent, Solana will listen to them,” an EU official familiar with the issue said. “What we are trying to do is find a way by which the Iranians move into suspension.”
To overcome the deadlock Solana, in talks with Iranian officials in Rome last month, proposed an interim freeze on expansion in Iran’s nuclear work in return for a freeze on steps to wider sanctions, EU officials have disclosed. He wanted Iran to follow up with a full suspension of nuclear work, they said.
“However, Iran made no gesture of goodwill in Rome, refusing both the double freeze and the double suspension,” EU powers Britain, France and Germany said in a statement last week.
Additional reporting by Mark Heinrich in Vienna; Writing by Edmund Blair, editing by Tim Pearce