EU-Iran nuclear meeting postponed until after G8

Iran Materials 28 June 2006 16:33 (UTC +04:00)

(Reuters) - A meeting between European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran's top nuclear negotiator has been postponed until after Group of Eight foreign ministers meet on Thursday, an EU diplomat said on Wednesday.

Solana will meet Ali Larijani somewhere in Europe next week to clarify a U.S.-backed package of incentives for Tehran to stop sensitive nuclear research that the West fears is aimed at producing a bomb, the diplomat said, reports Trend.

No reason was given for the delay. Both Solana and Larijani had said publicly they would meet this week and diplomats said Western governments were concerned Tehran was trying to string out its response to divide the major powers.

The European Union, the United States, Russia and China have warned Iran that the U.N. Security Council will act against it if it does not suspend uranium enrichment, but they have set no firm deadline and Moscow and Beijing oppose sanctions.

The Western powers have called for a clear Iranian reply in "weeks, not months" and indicated informally it should come before a G8 summit in Russia on July 15-16.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said last week Iran would reply before August 22, causing exasperation in Washington and London. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday Iran had nothing to gain from talks with the United States.

Diplomats said the G8 countries were debating the wording of a statement on

Iran for Thursday's foreign ministers' session in Moscow, which might give some indication of a desired timetable.

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett warned on Tuesday of the risk of being sucked into talks about talks.

"What I think there would be some concern about ... if we appeared that we were entering into a period of negotiation about negotiations," she told parliament.

The White House reacted calmly to Khamenei's comments, saying what counted was Larijani's official response to Solana on the European package of political, economic and technological incentives.

Washington has offered to join the EU's talks with Iran if Tehran verifiably suspends all enrichment-related activity.