EU Hopes to Restart Faltering Iran Talks

BERLIN -- EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Sunday that he hoped for an early resumption of negotiations with Iran.

His comments followed the United Nations Security Council's decision to impose new sanctions aimed at forcing Tehran to bring its nuclear program into line with international demands.

Solana told reporters that he was seeking immediate talks with Iran's top negotiator, Ali Larijani.

"We want to get in touch with Dr. Larijani, this morning if we can, to try to find a route that would allow us to go into the negotiations," Solana told reporters on the sidelines of a European Union summit.

"The door is open for negotiations, let's see if together we can go through."

He said talks with Larijani would seek to "prepare a route that leads to a negotiated solution to this conflict."

Solana issued a statement Saturday night, immediately after the United Nations resolution was passed in New York, that confirmed the continued "twin track" approach by the Europeans, th United States and other world powers.

That involves gradually imposing tougher sanctions if Iran fails to halt uranium enrichment, but offering negotiations on economic and political advantages for Iran if it falls into line.

"We want to be as generous as possible," Solana said.

Solana led largely unsuccessful international diplomatic efforts for months to persuade Iran to stop uranium enrichment before the UN first decided to impose sanctions in December.

He last met with Larijani at a security conference last month in Munich, and the two have spoken once by telephone since then.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also urged Iran to comply with UN resolutions "in order to clear the way for the start of negotiations."

He stressed that the incentives package offered to Tehran last year remains on the table and said the UN would suspend the sanctions if Iran suspended enrichment


"We are maintaining this offer of a double suspension," said Steinmeier, whose country is holding the EU's rotating presidency.

The sanctions, approved unanimously by the Security Council in New York, include banning Iranian arms exports and freezing the assets of 28 people and organizations involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programs.

Iran says its nuclear program is aimed at peaceful uses such as producing electricity, but the United States and Europeans fear it could be used to make nuclear weapons.

Solana also reiterated the EU's concern about the fate of 15 British sailors and marines held by Iran since they were captured in disputed waters off the Iran-Iraq border on Friday.