TEHRAN - While the Iranian regime has been categorical that negotiations with
the European Union over its controversial nuclear program are isolated from
planned talks with the United States over security in Iraq, the timing of the
parleys are such that overlap may be hard to avoid.
On Sunday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini said at his weekly
press briefing that "Iran will name its representative for negotiations
on Iraq with the U.S. side before June 28." Hosseini said earlier that
the Iranian side wished to avoid "any connection between the nuclear talks
and the discussions on Iraq."
However, when U.S. and Iranian diplomats meet in Baghdad on May 28, for a preliminary
round of talks on Iraq, it will only be days away from a planned meeting between
Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani and EU foreign policy chief Javier
Solana to break the impasse over Iran's ambitious nuclear program.
On Saturday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said the talks with
the EU would "most probably" be held in Spain. The date had earlier
been set for May 31, but the Islamic Republic News Agency, reporting from Brussels
on Sunday, said EU has not confirmed the date.
After Larijani and Solana last met to discuss the nuclear issue in Ankara on
April 25-26, Solana had indicated that the next round would be held mid-May.
Little is expected to come out of the Iran-U.S. meeting over Iraq. "We
have nothing to talk with the U.S. As the supreme leader has reiterated, we
will hold no talks with Washington until the U.S. administration changes its
wrong policies," Hosseini said at Sunday's briefing.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last week that Iran would
merely use the talks with U.S. diplomats as an opportunity to remind Washington
of its duties as an occupying force in the conflict-torn neighboring country.
The talks, he said, were only meant to remind the "occupying power of its responsibility
to stop the bloodbath in Iraq and restore security in the country."
The supreme leader's televised remarks, made during an address in the holy
city of Mashad to a group of clerics and theological students, came on the same
day that a small group of hard line students and the Basij militia of Tehran
University rallied outside President Ahmadinejad's office and the Iranian parliament
to protest what they called "pacifism."
"Is there any other reason for insecurity [in Iraq] other than the presence
of the occupiers? Is there need for negotiations to make the Americans understand
they must leave Iraq? Shouldn't the Iraqi government have made the Americans
release the detained Iranian diplomats to show their goodwill? And are we supposed
to save the Americans from another Vietnam?" the statement released by
the student group asked.
"Reformists are not generally opposed to the idea of talks. They are even
happy that the taboo on talking to the U.S. is breaking. This is what the reformist
government of Khatami tried to accomplish for years. They were stopped every
time, being accused of betraying the tenets of the Islamic Revolution,"
an analyst in Tehran, requesting anonymity, told IPS.
Meanwhile, the deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization has announced
plans for the indigenous building of a 360 Mw nuclear powered facility. "In
the next decade Iran will be one of the most talked-about countries in the world
regarding domestic nuclear energy," Mohammad Saeedi was quoted as saying
by the Iranian Students News Agency.
Following Iran's insistence on its right to enrich uranium, the United Nations
has, since December, imposed two sets of sanctions on this country and warned
of a third. Tehran has vowed to resist such international pressure.
Indeed, Iranian leaders have taken a tough, unbending stand on both upcoming
meetings with the Western powers. On Wednesday, Khamenei, using his customary
rhetoric, said: "Those who think the Islamic Republic will change its firm,
logical, and 100-percent defendable policy of refusing to talk and have relations
with the U.S., are badly mistaken."
Khamenei said Iran was responding, in the main, to an appeal from Baghdad to
hold the talks. He added that the U.S., which broke ties with Iran shortly after
the 1979 Islamic Revolution, had also made a written request for talks.
Washington has repeatedly accused Shi'ite Iran of stirring up sectarian violence
in Iraq and of seeking to build nuclear bombs clandestinely. Tehran has steadfastly
rejected both charges.
(Inter Press Service)