World powers Saturday gave Iran two weeks to agree to freeze its uranium enrichment program at its current size as a first step toward full-scale negotiations on its nuclear program, or face further U.N. sanctions and isolation.
Representatives of the six nations told Iran they will have no more talks in Switzerland on their offer, which is to withhold new U.N. sanctions for six weeks if Iran refrains, for a similar period, from adding new enrichment machines – called centrifuges – to the more than 3,000 it is now operating.
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said after the daylong talks with Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili that he hoped for more contacts with Iran “telephonically or physically.”
“The Iranians know very well what will continue to happen (on sanctions) if nothing happens otherwise,” Solana said.
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He was more explicit behind closed doors, rejecting an Iranian proposal for three more sessions to discuss the “freeze for a freeze,” said a European official who was present and requested anonymity because the talks were confidential.
“We are not looking for any more meetings. Give us a call in two weeks' time and say yes or no,” the European official quoted Solana as telling Jalili.
Solana said Jalili failed to give a clear response to the freeze-for-a-freeze proposal that was made by the powers – Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the United States – and carried to Tehran by Solana last month.
The proposal is meant to encourage Tehran to comply with U.N. Security Council demands to suspend uranium enrichment and negotiate the program's future in return for Western economic, security and technical rewards.
There were hopes of some movement following recent conciliatory statements by senior Iranian officials and President Bush's decision to send Undersecretary of State William Burns to Geneva, the first time a U.S. official has participated in face-to-face nuclear talks with Iran.
Bush's decision reversed an administration refusal to join direct talks until Iran complied with U.N. Security Council demands to suspend uranium enrichment – the process that can produce both fuel for power plants and fissionable material for nuclear weapons, depending on its duration.
The U.S., Israel and others believe Iran is using the enrichment program that it hid from mandatory inspections for 18 years to develop nuclear weapons. Iran insists it is producing power plant fuel.
Burns, a former U.S. ambassador to Moscow who helped broker a deal that ended Libya's nuclear program and is now the No. 3 State Department diplomat, left the talks without speaking to reporters.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that Burns delivered “a clear, simple message” to Jalili that the United States is “serious” in its support for the offers made to Iran and that its partners “are serious” in their support for a U.S. refusal to join full-scale negotiations unless Iran suspends enrichment.
“We hope the Iranian people understand that their leaders need to make a choice between cooperation, which would bring benefits to all, and confrontation, which can only lead to further isolation,” he said.