New talks with Iranian negotiators are unlikely to deter Tehran from plans to enrich uranium, even at the risk of accelerating efforts to have it referred to the U.N. Security Council, European diplomats said Tuesday on the eve of the meeting. Wednesday's talks are high level. Britain, France and Germany are sending officials who report directly to their foreign ministers, and Iran will be represented by Javad Vaidi, who handles international affairs for the Supreme National Security Council.
The two sides have not sat down formally at the same table since August, when Iran's decision to resume uranium conversion, a precursor of enrichment, torpedoed further meetings. But on Tuesday, some European diplomats accredited to the International Atomic Energy Agency monitoring Iran's nuclear activities described the upcoming session as "non-talks" about a "non-offer." The choice of words not only reflected low expectations about the outcome of the meeting, but indicated that its status and focus were unclear.
The diplomats, who insisted on anonymity in exchange for discussing details of the closed-door session, said the meeting was meant to do no more than establish whether there was a point to trying to meet again with the Iranians on enrichment, a process that can create either nuclear energy the fissile core of warheads. European negotiators will be probing for a positive Iranian reaction to a proposal that would move Tehran's planned enrichment program to Russia, a plan meant to banish the threat that it would be used to make nuclear arms.
But the diplomats were low-key about the chances of a positive response. Iranian officials have already rejected the plan, even though it has yet to be formally put on the table, repeatedly insisting that they will not allow enrichment to be moved abroad after the proposal was leaked more than a month ago. Indicating the limited scope of Wednesday's talks, the diplomats said they were set for one day only, although future and formal negotiating sessions were possible if enough common ground is found.
Before the meeting, Iranian officials spoke of new initiatives they were bringing to the talks. But the diplomats said they were unaware of details. One of them suggested they could be offers previously rejected by the Europeans to keep enrichment in Iran but open it up to foreign investment and thereby indirect international control.
Iranian officials also have cautioned against placing high expectations on the meeting. On Monday, Iran's top nuclear negotiator Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of the Atomic Organization of Iran, said he hoped for a positive outcome but "the results cannot be predicted", reports the AP. N.U.