LONDON – EU-Iranian talks broke up Friday without compromise on Tehran's refusal to freeze uranium enrichment, and the top European Union foreign policy envoy said he was disappointed at Tehran's refusal to budge on the issue.
"I expected more and therefore I am disappointed," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told reporters after a five-hour meeting with the Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili. The failure of the meeting was likely to increase pressure for new U.N. Security Council sanctions, with the five permanent council members set to discuss such actions Saturday.
Just minutes before Solana spoke, Jalili had sent a different message, describing his meeting as "good" and saying the two men had arranged to meet again next month.
But Solana's words — and his tense body language — made clear that the two men had failed to reach common ground. The fact that the two men spoke to reporters separately also appeared to reflect the divisions between them.
Before the talks between Solana and Jalili, senior European officials said that nothing short of an Iranian pledge to seriously consider freezing its enrichment program would defuse a push by the U.S. and its allies for new sanctions. While not going into specifics, Solana's statement made clear the Iranians had not budged on their refusal to do so.
Throughout the 18 months of EU-Iran talks, Tehran has publicly insisted it will never suspend enrichment. Although Tehran says it wants the technology to create fuel for nuclear reactors, concerns that it might use it to produce the fissile core of nuclear weapons have led to two sets of sanctions since December.
The London talks will be followed by a strategy session Saturday in Paris by top representatives of the five permanent U.N. Security Council nations plus Germany — the six countries at the forefront of efforts to dissuade Iran from developing its enrichment program.
While the Paris meeting will formally wait for a report from Solana on the outcome of his talks with Jalili, European officials told The Associated Press that there were few illusions that Tehran would change its mind on enrichment.
Comments Thursday by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband indicated the low expectations the Western powers — the United States, Britain, France and Germany — had of the London talks. He told reporters that "work is already under way and will continue" on the language of a Security Council resolution that would impose a third set of sanctions on Tehran.
"There's a lot of discussion going on about the content of a resolution," he said — an allusion to differences among the Western council members and Russia and China, who have watered down the two previous sanctions resolutions and appear skeptical about a third. Still, he said, "the marching orders ... are set out."
The council first imposed sanctions on Dec. 23, ordering all countries to stop supplying Iran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs, and freeze assets of 10 key Iranian companies and 12 individuals related to the programs.
In March, the council imposed moderately tougher sanctions, including banning Iranian arms exports and freezing the assets of 28 people and groups involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programs.
Both times, Iran responded by expanding enrichment. Tehran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and designed to generate electricity for civilian use. Many fear it masks a plan to develop weapons.
Iranian officials have repeatedly insisted that enrichment is not up for debate. During the EU-Iran discussions, which began in June 2006, the six nations have offered technological and political incentive if Iran mothballed the program.
Tehran was at pains to reinforce its message as late as Tuesday, when Iranian government spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham told reporters that suspension of enrichment is "not on the agenda" of the London talks.
A switch of Iranian negotiators complicates the chances of success. Ali Larijani, who resigned last month, was a relative moderate. But Jalili is loyal to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who has shown no sign of compromise in the nuclear dispute. One of the officials said that the rapport established at the talks had disappeared with the replacement of Larijani.