European negotiators, emerging from talks with their Iranian counterparts, announced on Wednesday that they would consult with their governments on resuming dialogue with Tehran over its atomic ambitions, including uranium enrichment, a possible pathway to nuclear weapons.
Talks on the issue broke off in August after Iran ended a freeze on uranium conversion, a precursor to enrichment.
“Both sides set out their positions in an open and frank manner … (and) agreed to consult with their respective leaderships with a view of holding another round of talks in January,” Stanislas Laboulay, the senior negotiator for France, said on Wednesday.
He said those talks would be aimed at “agreeing on the framework of (further) negotiations”.
Few details were immediately available about the substance of Wednesday’s talks.
The main issue in Vienna was Iran’s insistence that it has a right to enrich uranium, a technology that can produce either nuclear fuel or the fissile core of warheads.
Setting the tone for Wednesday’s talks, Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian foreign minister, insisted Iran Tehran the right to control the entire cycle for producing fuel for a reactor, from extracting uranium to enriching it.
Iran’s secret nuclear programme
“We don’t want talks just for the sake of talks,” he said in Tehran.
“When we talk about nuclear technology to produce fuel for our reactors, it means enrichment and having the complete nuclear fuel cycle.”
Still, Laboulay suggested Iranian negotiators were moderate at the talks.
Asked whether a proposal supported by the EU and the US to move Iran’s enrichment programme to Russia was off the table, he said: “They did not reject any plan.”
Iran’s enrichment ambitions are being viewed with suspicion because the country hid them from the world for nearly two decades before its secret nuclear programme was revealed nearly three years ago.
Since then, an IAEA probe has unearthed experiments, blueprints or equipment that either have “dual-use” applications or seem to have no nonmilitary function.
That has further added to concerns, even though no firm evidence of a weapons programme has been found.
The growing suspicions have boosted international support for US efforts to have Iran referred to the UN Security Council.
Recent anti-Jewish comments by Iran’s president have contributed to the country’s isolation. But with Russia and China – two nations that wield Security Council vetoes – opposed, the West has stopped short of forcing a decision on the issue at past meetings of the IAEA’s 35-nation board of governors.