EU Urges Iran to Return to Negotiations Over Nuclear Program

The European Union urged Iran to heed international calls Tuesday to return to negotiations to resolve standoffs with the international community over its nuclear program.

The EU foreign ministers said they have no choice but to back diplomatic talks at the United Nations about sanctions against Iran.

At a meeting, the EU ministers backed a decision by the U.N.'s five permanent Security Council members and Germany to pursue limited sanctions against Tehran, while keeping the door open to future talks.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who has led talks on behalf of the six nations — and the EU — had a one-hour phone conversation with top Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani on Monday. "There is nothing, nothing, nothing new. The situation hasn't changed," he told reporters.

Solana said Iran continues to refuse to suspend its nuclear enrichment program during future negotiations on its nuclear program. "We have to see if we can overcome the situation that makes it impossible to start negotiations," he said.

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Solana's negotiations with Tehran were seen as a final bid to avoid a full-blown confrontation between Iran and the U.N. after it ignored an Aug. 31 deadline to suspend enrichment or face punishment.

"Iran continues to refuse to suspend its uranium enrichment. So we have no other choice but to take this to the United Nations Security Council," French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said.

Washington has called for broad sanctions, such as a total ban on missile and nuclear technology sales, while the Russians and Chinese backed prohibitions of selected items as a first step.

EU nations have not decided what sanctions they might support against Tehran, but are leaning toward softer measures.

Officials said a package of incentives aimed at persuading Iran to halt uranium enrichment was still on offer. "That door remains open, but that requires a willingness on the Iranian side to step through the door," Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said.

Iran rejects claims made by the United States and others that it is using its nuclear program to develop nuclear weapons.

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