Iran's nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said Thursday Iran and the EU were nearing "a united view" in some areas of their talks and new ideas were raised to break an international impasse over Teheran's atomic program.
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said the talks had been constructive and conducted in a good atmosphere, though no "great breakthrough" was on the cards for now.
Larijani and Solana spoke at a news conference in Turkey's capital before resuming discussions, which ended in the early afternoon. They are to reconvene in two weeks' time.
The United States and other Western powers suspect Iran has a secret nuclear arms program, and UN sanctions have been imposed on Teheran. Iran says its drive to produce uranium fuel is for electricity only and is vital to economic development.
"In some areas we are approaching a united view. That is to say that the best approach is to settle all the issues through negotiations based on law and international rules and regulations," Larijani said.
"We had transparent and frank talks and there were new ideas also introduced. I would not say they are all complete ideas but they will serve as capacity for continuing talks. We should give them time to grow," he told reporters later.
He and Solana did not go into the substance of their two-day talks, their first for more than two months.
The core dispute is Iran's refusal to suspend any part of efforts to enrich uranium against a UN demand that it halt all such activity to win a suspension of sanctions against it and launch negotiations leading to trade benefits on offer to Iran.
Some diplomats and analysts have said Iran and six world powers handling Iran's nuclear file could eventually accept a partial enrichment suspension under strict UN inspections to break the deadlock. But both sides have publicly denied this.
Asked if he and Larijani discussed a limited suspension as a compromise to enable negotiations, Solana told reporters:
"We didn't enter any specific discussions of that nature. We have moved on in general terms. Some progress has been made. As you know, the situation is difficult."
Asked the same question, Larijani said: "That idea is an old presumption. If you just go for a suspension, there are no other issues remaining to solve through negotiations."
But he also told CNN Turk television that Teheran was trying to find "a middle way" out of preconditions posed by the West. "Suspension of enrichment activities is not an order from God."
A European diplomat said the nature of an enrichment freeze came up in the talks. But another said it was Iranians who were interested in relaxing the definition, not the Western powers.
A British Foreign Office spokesman said: "The Security Council resolution has said Iran needs to suspend enrichment activities. Solana won't be making any fresh offers."
But analysts say the key to resolving the crisis is finding a definition of an enrichment suspension both sides can stomach. This could, for example, mean suspending uranium fuel production but exempting the building or testing of centrifuge machines.
European officials say such compromises could be struck in the future, but only after Iran freezes enrichment activity.
(China Daily via agencies April 27, 2007 )