EU3 Agree to Restart Iran Talks

TEHRAN, Iran / BARCELONA, Spain -- Britain, France and Germany agreed on Sunday to exploratory talks with Iran on resuming negotiations over its disputed nuclear program, which broke down in August, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said.

"A letter has been conveyed to Iran this afternoon ... from the three countries and myself. We offered Iran to have conversations, dialogue to see if we have enough common basis to start negotiations," he told reporters at a Euro-Mediterranean summit in Barcelona.

An EU diplomat said the letter called Iran's resumption of uranium ore conversion a "major setback" but dropped the previous European insistence that negotiations on long-term cooperation could only restart if Iran resumed a full suspension of activities related to uranium enrichment.

The letter set no date, but Iran's official IRNA news agency said ambassadors of the so-called EU3 countries had accepted a resumption of the talks in December, quoting a statement issued by Iran's Supreme National Security Council.

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, wrote to the EU3 this month calling for the resumption of talks, which collapsed in August when Tehran reactivated a plant converting uranium ore into a gas, a precursor to making enriched nuclear fuel.

The International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board decided on Thursday not to refer Iran to the UN Security Council to give time to try to broker a compromise. The EU diplomat said the EU3 letter said talks could cover a Russian proposal, backed by Washington and the European Union.

That plan would allow Iran to maintain a civilian nuclear program, but uranium enrichment, the most sensitive stage of the nuclear fuel cycle, would be transferred to Russia under a joint venture.

However, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi reiterated on Sunday that Iran's right to a full nuclear cycle on its soil was nonnegotiable.