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EU's Solana Upbeat Ahead of Nuclear Talks With Iran


European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana expressed cautious optimism Monday his talks later this week with his Iranian counterpart in nuclear talks, Ali Larijani, will be positive. Teri Schultz reports for VOA from Brussels.

Since Javier Solana last met Ali Larijani in February, the United Nations Security Council stiffened sanctions against Tehran and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced his country is conducting industrial-scale uranium enrichment.

Nonetheless, Solana says ongoing phone conversations with Larijani have convinced him the situation is - as he described it - "sufficiently mature" to warrant the face-to-face contact.

"And I hope very very much that this meeting will open the possibility to continue what we did time ago, some months ago and be able to see if we can get the preparatory work so we can get into formal negotiations," said Javier Solana.

The purpose of the talks would be to pave the way for the resumption of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. The United States and a number of other countries maintain Iran has a clandestine program to build an atomic bomb. Tehran denies this and says its nuclear activity is for peaceful purposes only.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg Monday approved a second round of U.N. sanctions, which ban Iran's arms exports and freeze the assets of more than two dozen Iranians involved with the nuclear program. The EU also voted to block additional financial assistance to Iran.

Solana is scheduled to meet Larijani on Wednesday in Ankara.

According to Solana's office, the international community would suspend U.N. sanctions against Iran in exchange for Tehran's suspension of uranium enrichment work.

Although President Ahmadinejad is reported to have rejected this "double suspension" approach, Solana is sounding optimistic.

"I do not have any guarantee that it is going to be a success but I do not have any guarantee that it is going to be a failure," he said. "I like to think that once we get in an agreement to meet, it is because you have - both sides - the belief that there is a possibility to move the process forward."

Solana emphasized diplomacy is the only way to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

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