London, Dec 16, IRNA-The British government confirmed Friday that the EU would hold exploratory talks with Iran to assess the possibility of resuming negotiations over its nuclear programme in Vienna on December 21.
A Foreign Office spokesman told IRNA that next Wednesday's meeting would be held at Political Director level "to discuss the basis for further negotiations." "We are looking to hear from Iran how it intends to respond to messages from the IAEA board of governors," the spokesman said. "We are also interested in hearing how Iran stands on the Russia idea," he said.
Confirmation of the talks coincided with EU leaders issuing a statement at their summit in Brussels, saying they were "gravely concerned at Iran's failure to build confidence that its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful."
The EU offer to resume talks was made in response to a letter sent in November by the secretary of Iran's National Security Council, Ali Larijani, to Britain, France and Germany, which has been leading EU nuclear negotiations.
Talks between the two sides broke down in August when Iran rejected an EU offer of economic and political incentives in return for a permanent suspension of the development of a fuel enrichment cycle that has the potential for military use.
But in a statement issued last week, the Foreign Office said that it was indicating "willingness" to meet Iranian officials again to explore the possibility of resuming discussions "in response to the wishes of many members of the (IAEA) Board."
The Russian offer, which reportedly makes a key concession of allowing Iran to develop an early part of the fuel cycle, proposes a joint venture for uranium enrichment outside Iran, which the EU and US is supporting.
The Foreign Office spokesman repeated that the dispute over Iran's uclear programme was not with the US or the EU but with the IAEA.
At the last board meeting in November, IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei said that he still believed "robust verification by the Agency, combined with active dialogue among all concerned parties, is the best way to move forward."
During a subsequent visit to London two weeks ago, ElBaradei also said he hoped to resolve outstanding issues with regard to Iran's nuclear programme by next year.
In an interview with IRNA in London in October, Britain's Ambassador to Tehran Richard Dalton indicated that the EU could break the deadlock over Iran's nuclear programme by advancing its original offer made under the terms of the Paris Agreement.
"We think that the proposal that EU put forward can be certainly improved and the proposal of (the Iranian President) his Excellency Mr Ahmadinejad made in New York can clearly go on to the table," Dalton said.
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