US, EU turn up pressure in Iran nuke talks

By Bradley Klapper

Associated Press

PRISTINA, Kosovo — The U.S. and the European Union said Tuesday they’ll press on with sanctions against Iran, even as they hope the promise of new negotiations could lead to a diplomatic solution ending the nuclear standoff.

Appearing together at a news conference in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo before continuing a joint tour of the Balkans in Serbia and Kosovo, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said both diplomacy and pressure would continue until Iran makes significant concessions over its disputed uranium enrichment activity.

“We continue to try and find ways to move forward on our negotiations,” Ashton told reporters in Sarajevo. She cited contact over the weekend between a top aide and an assistant to Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, and said she would be reaching out to Jalili “in the near future.”

Still, there appeared to be no significant advance in the process since world powers instructed Ashton last month in New York to speak with Jalili and gauge Iran’s seriousness on coming into compliance with its international nuclear negotiations.

The West fears Iran may be trying to develop nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.

The West has demanded that Iran must stop enriching uranium to 20 percent purity, shut down its underground Fordo enrichment site and ship its 20 percent stockpile out of the country.

In return, Iran has been offered civilian plane spare parts and 20 percent-enriched nuclear fuel for its medical research reactor in Tehran.

Clinton said the U.S. message to Iran is clear. “The window remains open to resolve the international community’s concerns about your nuclear program diplomatically and to relieve your isolation, but that window cannot remain open indefinitely. Therefore, we hope that there can be serious good-faith negotiations commenced soon.” Iran has sent mixed signals on its nuclear program. World powers cited increased flexibility from Iran in September when they agreed to lay the groundwork for a new round of negotiations, and on Tuesday Iran’s Foreign Ministry said the standoff could be resolved if the U.S. and its partners recognize Iran’s right to produce nuclear fuel.

But senior Iranian officials also have threatened to boost enrichment levels if the West doesn’t ease sanctions.

And the U.S. and its partners say measures that are crippling the Iranian economy will remain in force until Tehran first starts coming into compliance with its international obligations. Clinton and Ashton spoke during the first leg of their tour of the Balkans, where they are urging rivals ethnic groups and governments to settle their differences for the good of their nations.