Top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani arrived in Vienna Saturday for a last-ditch meeting with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana ahead of a looming UN showdown over Tehran's nuclear ambitions, a senior Iranian offical said.
"Larijani is in Vienna, yes," Iran's ambassador to the UN nuclear watchdog Ali Asghar Soltanieh said, adding that the meeting would be held in the afternoon.
But Solana was apparently still in Brussels in what has been a touch-and-go situation, with the meeting having already been postponed Wednesday when it was supposed to be in Vienna.
The meeting comes at a time when the United States wants a UN Security Council resolution on imposing sanctions on Iran over its contested nuclear program drafted as early as next week.
This would allow foreign ministers from the six nations trying to win guarantees that Iran will not make nuclear weapons to "complete a sanctions resolution" when they meet in New York at the UN General Assembly the week after next, US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said Friday in Berlin.
The six are seeking talks with Iran on a package of benefits for the Islamic Republic but demand that Tehran first suspend uranium enrichment, which makes nuclear power reactor fuel but also can produce atom bomb material.
Iran claims it has a right to what it says is peaceful nuclear work to generate electricity.
It has defied the six world powers' call for suspension as well as a Security Council resolution demanding a freeze by August 31 of the strategic fuel work and threatening sanctions if Tehran does not comply.
Solana said Friday in Copenhagen that no UN sanctions would be imposed on Iran "as long as meetings with Mr Larijani continue."
The United States wants clarification of these remarks, which seem to contradict what Burns was saying, the US State Department said Friday.
Solana said it would become clearer on Saturday whether it would be possible to begin negotiations between Tehran and the six world powers.
He said he was "optimistic but not naive" about the outcome of talks with Larijani.
"Saturday's meeting will enable us to see if we can prepare the groundwork" for future talks, Solana said.
"I'm sure that the conversations or discussions will be difficult, otherwise the matter would have been resolved months ago," he said.
"But we have to go into this making every effort in order to succeed," he said.
A Vienna-based diplomat said the problem in getting Larijani and Solana together was "because they want to be sure there will be a (good) outcome before they go into the meeting".