Monday 22nd Apr 2019 

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News: International

EU-Iran talks achieve nothing, France says

EU-Iran talks achieve nothing, France saysThe Associated Press - Last-ditch talks on Iran's nuclear program achieved "nothing," French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said Monday.

"The negotiating process has reached an impasse and the involvement of the Security Council is now necessary," Douste-Blazy said after talks between French, British and German officials and Iran's deputy nuclear negotiator Javad Vaedi.

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier added, "there were no new proposals" from the Iranians today.

"Iran has challenged the entire international community," Douste-Blazy told reporters. "The international community has to respond to that challenge with firmness and efficiency."

The French minister's words were echoed by the top British official at the talks. "To be frank, we didn't detect anything new in their approach," said John Sawers, political director from the British Foreign Office.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that the international community has agreed Iran should not have nuclear weapons.

"We have a lot of agreement among the international community. Iran shouldn't be able to get a nuclear weapon. It must suspend its nuclear activities and go back to negotiations," Rice said at a news conference in London.

European Union foreign ministers would jointly call on Iran again to end all nuclear enrichment-related activities, warning that otherwise they would seek to take the matter to the U.N. Security Council, diplomats said.

Vaedi appeared a little more upbeat upon leaving the meeting. "Now we can continue opening the chance for talks," he said.

In Vienna, a diplomat said Iran had allowed agency inspectors access to its Lavizan-Shian site - suspected of being the repository of equipment bought by its military that could be used in a nuclear weapons program.

News of the Lavizan visit was first revealed Sunday in Tehran by Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi, who said IAEA inspectors trying to gain access to the site for more than a year had been given the information they sought.

The United States alleges Iran had conducted high-explosive tests that could have a bearing on developing nuclear weapons at the site.

The State Department said in 2004 that Lavizan's buildings had been completely dismantled and topsoil had been removed in attempts to hide nuclear weapons-related experiments.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Monday's meeting indicated Iran, which recently restarted nuclear work, had not abandoned efforts to find a diplomatic solution.

"The fact that Iran asked for these discussions this morning _ they are not negotiations _ illustrates the fact that Iran is ... concerned about its international position," Straw said.

The European Union has led negotiations meant to ease international concerns that Iran could use its nuclear program to produce weapons. Tehran says it only wants to generate nuclear power.

Earlier this month, Iran broke U.N. seals at a uranium enrichment plant and said it would resume nuclear fuel research after a two-year freeze. Tehran said the research would involve what it called limited uranium enrichment.

Rice was joining foreign ministers from the four other permanent Security Council members _ Britain, France, Russia and China _ plus Germany, in an attempt to break the diplomatic deadlock over Iran's nuclear program.

A draft EU statement said recent Iranian actions "run counter to International Atomic Energy Agency resolutions and ... are a rejection of the efforts to explore whether a basis can be agreed for resuming negotiations."

In light of this, it said, the ministers could seek to take Iran's case to the U.N. Security Council, but added that the "issue can still be solved by negotiations." It said this would "require a cooperative and transparent approach on the part of the Iranian government."

The EU said a Russian proposal to enrich uranium and send the fuel back to Iran, allowing more oversight of the process, could be the way forward.

The European powers are wary of allowing Iran to carry out nuclear fuel production on its own territory. Enriched uranium can be used as both fuel for nuclear power and in the production of weapons, depending on how it is processed.

"We are looking with interest at that proposal," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said. "It is a proposal in which enrichment would be done outside, in Russia, but at the moment no agreement has been reached between Russia and Iran."

Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said Friday that the Russian proposal did not meet "all the nuclear energy needs of Iran."

The 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, was to meet Thursday at its headquarters in Vienna, Austria, to discuss possible Security Council referral.

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