June 20, 2007 / 1:42 PM / 12 years ago

Iran's Larijani to meet IAEA chief Friday: envoy

VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani will have talks with the U.N. atomic watchdog chief on Friday but will not discuss big powers’ demands for an Iranian nuclear halt, an Iranian official said on Wednesday.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani arrives at Madrid's Barajas airport May 30, 2007. Larijani will meet with the U.N. atomic watchdog chief on Friday but will not discuss world powers' demands for an Iranian nuclear halt, a senior Iranian official said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Andrea Comas

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Larijani would meet IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei in Vienna on his way to exploratory talks with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana in Lisbon on Saturday.

Asked if Larijani might take up ElBaradei’s call last week on Iran to stop expanding its uranium enrichment program as a step towards defusing a standoff with the West, Soltanieh said:

“Suspension is out of the question, forget about it. We have repeatedly made our position very clear.”

Javad Vaeedi, Larijani’s deputy, told Iranian news agency IRNA: “Larijani and ElBaradei will discuss the continuation and strengthening of cooperation between the IAEA and Iran.”

Officials at the Vienna-based agency declined comment.

Successive IAEA reports have documented declining Iranian cooperation with the agency in retaliation for U.N. sanctions imposed on Tehran over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment.

Iran says it only wants to enrich uranium to the low grade required for electricity generation, not to make atomic bombs.

In March, Iran said it would withhold early design details on planned nuclear sites from the IAEA, including a heavy-water reactor Western officials say could yield bomb-grade plutonium.

In talks with Solana in Spain on May 31, Larijani suggested Iran was ready to do more to clear up longstanding IAEA investigations into the nature of its program.

But modest new hopes for Iranian transparency deflated when Tehran reiterated that the U.N. Security Council would first have to return control over Iran’s file to the IAEA, ending sanctions pressure.

The U.S. State Department said on Thursday that Washington and other major powers had begun consultations on a third set of Security Council sanctions related to Iran’s refusal to shelve any aspect of its campaign for a nuclear fuel industry.

The last Larijani-Solana meeting yielded no breakthrough and a senior U.S. official said on Tuesday there was no expectation the Lisbon encounter would make headway.

But State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said world powers still wanted through Solana to encourage Iran “to find some way to say yes”, so that negotiations could begin on implementing trade benefits offered to Tehran a year ago.

Although top U.S. officials have repeatedly asserted their commitment to resolving the Iran matter through diplomacy, President George W. Bush on Tuesday repeated that all options, including military action, were on the table.

ElBaradei said last week that war against Tehran over the nuclear issue would be “an act of madness”.

additional reporting by Edmund Blair in Tehran

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