Talks are underway in Vienna between foreign ministers from Britain, France, Russia, Germany, China and the US on the Iranian nuclear issue.
It comes as the Iranians spurned yesterday’s offer from US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to hold direct talks if Tehran suspends its uranium enrichment programme. The White House has urged Iran to continue considering its proposals. British foriegn minister Margaret Beckett was upbeat: “The international community is united in wanting to make progress, united in seeing this as potentially a real opportunity for Iran and for the international community to come to negotiated agreements and solutions,” she said. The Iranians, led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, see their nuclear ambitions as a symbol of the country’s high-tech future. Western states suspect Iran wants to enrich uranium to suffient levels to produce atomic weapons, a charge it denies. The meeting in Vienna will finalise a “carrot and stick” package to persuade Tehran to change its policy. It is thought to include offering a light-water nuclear reactor and a secure supply of atomic fuel, and carry the threat of asset freezing and visa bans if Iran does not comply.