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EU, Iran having hard time getting talks re-started: diplomats

Nuclear site in IranNCRI – Talks between the European Union and Iran on winning guarantees Tehran is not making nuclear weapons may take longer to restart than expected as the two sides are bickering over substance and form, diplomats told AFP today.

A first meeting was hoped for next week but "it’s more likely it will be in mid-December or early January," said a Western diplomat, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.

The diplomat said there is still no confirmation of a date or site for the meeting, which could be in Moscow, Geneva, Vienna or Brussels.

Iranian regime wants the meeting to be at the ministerial level while EU negotiators Britain, France, Germany want it only at the level of senior foreign ministry officials.

Mullahs’ chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani "is really keen on Iran getting respect" from a high-level meeting, the diplomat said.

However, the Europeans want a lower-level meeting "to talk about talks" — to see if formal talks that were broken off in August can be resumed.

In addition, the so-called EU-3 have insisted they will not "resume formal negotiations with Iran until Iran fully re-suspends uranium conversion work," another diplomat said.

That diplomat said EU-3 ambassadors told Iran of this last Sunday in verbal comments made when they handed over a letter on resuming talks.

"The verbal demarche was reportedly quite tough," said the diplomat, who was briefed on the meeting.

EU-Iran talks collapsed in August when Iran ended its suspension of uranium conversion, the first step towards making enriched uranium, which can be used to fuel nuclear reactors or as the explosive core of atom bombs.

Iranian regime has repeatedly said it will continue with conversion work.