Netanyahu urges tougher Iran sanctions, but EU wants to wait
Iran and world powers to meet in early October in order to resolve row over Tehran's nuclear program.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday the time had come for tougher sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, but the European Union believes such a move is best left until after negotiations.
Iran and six world powers seeking to defuse a protracted standoff over Tehran's nuclear program will apparently start talks on October 1, in what a senior U.S. official described as an "important first step".
A senior Iranian official said Iran would not negotiate on its "sovereign right" to nuclear energy but, if that were recognized, Iran was ready to discuss any issue at the talks, including ways of upholding non-proliferation globally.
"At the moment we're looking towards the possibility of a meeting between the Iranians and the 3+3 (U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany)," said Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency.
"Such a meeting will take place, and then we'll have to look at the Iranian answer and see if we can go somewhat more concretely into the different details," Bildt said before chairing a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.
Netanyahu, however, called for more "effective" action, in comments appeared that to signal - amid wide speculation that Israel could opt to attack Iranian nuclear facilities - that it had not given up on international diplomacy to curb Tehran's atomic ambitions.
"I believe that now is the time to start harsh sanctions against Iran - if not now then when? These harsh sanctions can be effective," Netanyahu was quoted by a parliamentary official as telling a legislative committee.
"I believe that the international community can act effectively," he said, according to the official, who briefed reporters on Netanyahu's remarks to parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
"The Iranian regime is weak, the Iranian people would not rally around the regime if they felt for the first time that there was a danger to their regime - and this would be a new situation," Netanyahu said.
A spokeswoman for European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana confirmed on Monday that he had talked to Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili by phone and they had agreed on a meeting on October 1.
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu confirmed Monday in Vienna that his country would take part in the talks as well.
"This is an important first step in the discussion and one hopes for the best," Chu told reporters on the sidelines of the IAEA General Conference.
Iran's ISNA news agency said European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili had agreed to meet on Oct. 1, but that the venue had yet to be decided.
"Javier Solana and Saeed Jalili agreed in a telephone conversation ... to meet each other on Oct. 1," ISNA said.
"Both sides have agreed on holding a meeting between representatives of (the six major powers) and representatives of Iran to discuss (Tehran's) proposed package," it said, without making clear if this would be a separate meeting.
Iran last week handed over a package of proposals to the world powers, including the United States, in which Tehran said it was willing to discuss global nuclear disarmament as well as other international issues in wide-ranging talks.
But the document did not mention Iran's own nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at making bombs, and officials have made clear it will not be part of any such discussions.
The Islamic Republic has repeatedly said its nuclear program is for civil energy uses, not weapons.
The United States has said it will accept Iran's offer of talks despite Tehran's stated refusal to discuss its nuclear work, making clear it intended to raise the issue anyway.
U.S. President Barack Obama, who came to office pledging a policy of engagement toward Iran, has suggested it may face harsher international sanctions if it does not accept good-faith talks by the end of September.
Turkey's foreign minister said during a visit to Tehran on Sunday his country would be prepared to host talks between Iran and the world powers, Iran's official news agency IRNA reported.
The six powers - the permanent U.N. Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, as well as Germany - offered Iran trade and diplomatic incentives in 2006 in exchange for a halt to uranium enrichment.
They improved the offer last year but retained the suspension demand, something Tehran has repeatedly ruled out as a precondition. Refined uranium can be used as fuel for nuclear power plants but also provide material for bombs.