US warns Iran as nuclear talks yield no deal


Geneva : World powers’ latest bid to make Iran halt its nuclear programme stalled Saturday as high-level talks involving US and Iranian officials ended without a deal and Washington warned of possible further “confrontation.”

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“It was a constructive meeting, but still we didn’t get the answer to our questions,” EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said after the talks in Geneva that aimed to get Tehran to give up its disputed nuclear programme in return for a package of incentives.

“There is always progress in these talks, but insufficient,” he said, adding that the Iranians were expected to respond to the latest incentives within two weeks.

He did not overtly address the question of further sanctions, but the US State Department after the talks warned Iran to accept the incentives or face “further isolation.”

“We hope the Iranian people understand that their leaders need to make a choice between cooperation, which would bring benefits to all, and confrontation, which can only lead to further isolation,” spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement.

Detailing the proposals on the table Saturday, Solana said the international community proposed that “we refrain from (further) Security Council resolutions and for Iran to refrain from nuclear activity including the installations of new centrifuges” for processing uranium.

“We are looking forward to an answer from Iran in this question… in a couple of weeks,” he said. Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Kisliak, who attended the talks, was quoted by the Ria-Novosti news agency as saying that he too expected a response from Iran in two weeks.

“We hope that the two weeks we agreed on with the Iranians will help Iran to specify its stance on our proposals,” he said. Iranian, European and US officials, including US State Department official William Burns, attended the talks in Geneva’s historic Town Hall as part of a bid to resolve the long-running dispute over Tehran’s nuclear programme.

In Washington, McCormack said Burns delivered a “clear simple message” that the United States would only engage in negotiations with Iran when it halts uranium enrichment.

Western countries suspect Iran is secretly trying to develop a nuclear bomb and the United Nations has imposed several sets of sanctions against Tehran over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment. Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons, insisting that its programme is designed to provide energy for its growing population for the time when its reserves of fossil fuels run out.

World powers have offered to start pre-negotiations during which Tehran would add no more uranium-enriching centrifuges and in return face no further sanctions.

Solana said that no fixed date had been set for this meeting, which could be held over the telephone and might only feature deputy officials rather than another high-level encounter.

Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili described Saturday’s talks as “constructive and progressing,” in comments to reporters afterwards. “We have understood better our mutual positions,” he said.

“There are points in common and points that are not in common,” Jalili added. “We have agreed to discuss this.”

The Iranian representative compared the diplomatic process to weaving traditional Persian carpets: progress in cases “moves forward in millimetres,” he said.

“It’s a very precise work, in certain cases it’s a very beautiful endeavour and hopefully the end result, the final product, would be beautiful to behold,” Jalili said.

The attendance of Burns, the number three official at the State Department, marked a major policy shift by Washington, which has not had any diplomatic relations with Iran since 1980 following the Islamic Revolution.

McCormack said Burns did not meet or speak separately with any member of the Iranian delegation.