European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana insisted on Friday that he was making progress in talks to persuade Iran to bring its nuclear programme into line with international demands.
"We are really making progress," Solana said. "Never before have we had the level of engagement, and a level of discussion of issues which are difficult as we are having now." He said he hoped for a new meeting with Iran's top negotiator Ali Larijani in the coming days. Solana said lower level talks had been going on daily since Sunday, when he and Larijani last met in Vienna, Austria.
"The atmosphere is good," Solana told a news conference. "We don't want to lose the momentum that was created in Vienna." Officials in delegations familiar with the outcome of Sunday's talks said this week that Larijani had suggested his country was ready to consider an enrichment freeze for up to two months.
Solana did not confirm that Iran had made such an offer. He said a planned meeting with Larijani was postponed Thursday because "a little bit more time was needed in order (for Larijani) to find consensus in his own country, among his own leadership." Instead the two men spoke by phone and Solana said he hoped the delay in face-to-face talks would allow Larijani to return with a "possible positive answer" to ideas the European negotiator put forward last weekend.
Iran has baulked at a demand issued by the UN Security Council's five permanent members and Germany that such an enrichment freeze be imposed before any talks begin on further de-escalation of the nuclear standoff.