TEHRAN, Iran – Iran Monday hailed a visit by U.N Secretary General Kofi Annan as positive and accused the United States of sabotaging efforts to resolve its nuclear dispute with the West.
Annan's two-day visit came after Iran ignored the U.N. Security Council's Thursday deadline for Tehran to halt uranium enrichment, opening the door to possible sanctions over concerns that the Iranians are trying to develop atomic weapons.
"Our evaluation is that it was good, suitable and positive. In the nuclear field, the discussions were fair. Both sides supported negotiations for achieving a solution," government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham told a press conference, referring to Annan's visit.
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his talks Sunday with Annan refused Western demands to halt uranium enrichment activities before talks over its nuclear program.
But the Iranian government Monday insisted that a hardline U.S. stance was to blame for the impasse. "There is a good trend over the nuclear issue and some countries and powers like the U.S. want to turn the logical trend into illogical one," Elham said.
In June, the five permanent members of the U.N Security Council plus Germany offered Iran a package of economic and diplomatic incentives to limit its nuclear program.
Iran didn't respond until Aug. 22, rejecting the condition that it stop enriching uranium before talks. The content of its response has not been made public.
Iran's slowness in responding to the incentives package prompted the Security Council to issue a resolution July 31 ordering it to halt uranium enrichment by the end of August.
Enrichment produces fuel that can either be used for atomic energy or as weapons-grade material. Oil-rich Iran says its nuclear program is purely to generate electricity but Western nations claim it is a cover for a nuclear weapons drive.
Although Iran's defiance of the U.N. deadline opens the way for the Security Council to consider sanctions, it is unlikely punitive measures will come soon.
Both Russia and China are among the council's veto-holding permanent members and oppose strong sanctions. The United States and its allies are pushing for punitive measures.
The European Union is taking another shot at diplomacy this week, with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana planning to meet with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani. But the bloc said Saturday that it would not give much time for the effort to produce results.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Monday he was skeptical of the chances of success after Annan's failure to secure any commitment from Iran's leaders to stop enriching uranium.
Steinmeier said the meeting between Solana and Larijani this week seemed unlikely to succeed.
"We must remain skeptical that this will work," Steinmeier said at a meeting of Germany's foreign ambassadors. "If not, the road to the U.N. Security Council will be unavoidable."