CORFU, Greece – The European Union wants to restart talks on Iran's nuclear program, an official said Sunday, even as Tehran ratcheted up tensions with the bloc by detaining Iranian employees of the British Embassy.
Earlier this month, the EU's 27 leaders unanimously condemned Teheran's treatment of the hundreds of thousands of protesters who have rallied to demand a recount of presidential ballots. The street rallies have posed the greatest challenge to Iran's ruling system since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Still, the EU also wants to leave the door open for the resumption of dialogue with Tehran on its nuclear program, and officials have sought to balance criticism of the crackdown with the need to prevent Iran from slipping further into isolation.
"We would like very much that soon we will have the possibility to restart multilateral talks with Iran on the important nuclear issues," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told reporters in Corfu where he and EU foreign ministers were attending a meeting of the 56-nation Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
In an indication of how much ties with the West have deteriorated in recent weeks, Iranian media reported Sunday that authorities had detained eight local employees of the British Embassy in Tehran for an alleged role in postelection protests.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who attended the talks in Corfu, said London is "deeply concerned" at the detentions, which he described as "harassment and intimidation of a kind that is quite unacceptable."
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said EU ministers — who met separately after the OSCE talks on Sunday afternoon — expressed support for Britain over the detained embassy officials.
"We have an agreement which reaffirms solidarity among member states particularly to the British authorities about the arrests," Frattini said.
He added that EU nations had also agreed to discuss a common visa policy for Iranians seeking to flee violence at home. Italy already has granted a number of visas to protesters in Iran who want to escape the crackdown.