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Solana: 'The button has been reset'

But nuclear talks with Iran will wait until election upheaval is resolved, EU foreign policy chief says.

While the focus has been on Moscow this week, Solana said he is keeping a close eye on Tehran in the violent aftermath of the country’s contested elections of June 12. He serves as the envoy for nuclear talks with Iran on behalf of the United Nations Security Council’s Permanent Five members (Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S.) and Germany. His mandate is to talk the Iranian regime into beginning international negotiations on its nuclear program, which the U.S. and others believe is aimed at producing nuclear weapons.

Although Solana, like the Obama Administration, has expressed hope that a post-election Iranian government would soon agree to hold talks, in this interview Solana clarified that there are conditions on his willingness to move forward.

“I think that the idea of maintaining a sense of commitment with them to get engaged and resolve the nuclear issue is fundamental,” he said, but underscored that this would not be before election results are verified to the satisfaction of the international community. “I don’t think ‘tomorrow’ we’ll have talks with them,” he said.

In addition to the disputed election results and the ensuing government crackdown on protesters and the press, the Iranian regime has provoked EU ire by detaining employees of the British embassy as well as a French teacher. Solana said that indications were good that the final embassy worker still detained would be freed. In the meantime, EU officials in Tehran filed the latest in a string of demands for these releases to take place immediately, or the “EU will take further action.”

Nevertheless, Solana rejects criticism that the EU approach to the situation, which has been similar to that of the U.S., has been too reserved.

“I think we’ve handled the situation with a lot of wisdom,” he said, “trying to denounce what has to be denounced but at the same time knowing that Iran is an important country and (on) some of the issues — in particular, the nuclear issue — we have to get engaged and try to resolve it. Don’t forget what we’re talking about, a nuclear issue of great concern to the region and the world at large.”

As for the international negotiator himself, he announced over the weekend that when his current term as High Representative for EU Foreign and Security Policy ends in October, he will not seek a third one. While not entirely unexpected, Solana’s departure does lead to the question of what will happen with the Iranian nuclear negotiations entrusted in him personally.

“Let us hope it’s resolved by then,” he said wryly.

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