BRUSSELS, Belgium – Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani warned Tuesday that talks on his country's atomic program will be a "long process," urging patience and dashing hopes of a breakthrough on the international standoff.
His comments after talks with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana appeared to quash hopes that Tehran will meet a Wednesday deadline on a six-nation offer of rewards and incentives in exchange for suspending suspect nuclear activity.
"We have discussed a wide range of important issues together; consultations will now be done by both sides. We will be in contact together in order to see how to proceed," Larijani told reporters after the negotiations. "We have to go into a long process; we must be patient."
Solana offered little comment on progress made during the meeting, which lasted around four hours.
"We will make (an) analysis and we will see how to proceed," Solana said.
Neither side gave an indication on whether Iran was moving toward accepting a package of nuclear incentives offered last month. Iranian officials in Tehran reiterated that they need clarification on the proposal before giving any formal response.
Solana was hoping for a positive reply from Larijani on the offer of economic and trade rewards as well as nuclear expertise and reactors in exchange for a pledge by Iran to suspend uranium enrichment activities during nuclear talks.
Solana said he will brief foreign ministers from the six powers -- the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain -- on his talks with the Iranians at their meeting Wednesday in Paris.
The six powers want an Iranian response to the incentives package before the July 15-17 summit of the Group of Eight industrialized nations in St. Petersburg, Russia. But Iranian officials have insisted they won't present a formal response until August.