PARIS: In a sign that Iran has hardened its position on its nuclear program, its new nuclear negotiator said in talks in London on Friday that all proposals made in past negotiations were irrelevant and that further discussion of a curb on Iran's uranium enrichment was unnecessary, senior officials briefed on the meeting said.
The Iranian official, Saeed Jalili, also told Javier Solana, who represented the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany in the five-hour talks, that United Nations Security Council resolutions punishing Iran for not suspending its enriched uranium activities were illegal, the officials said.
Representatives of the six countries met in Paris on Saturday afternoon to discuss further punitive Security Council measures against Iran after the final talks in London failed to produce a breakthrough.
The countries have been divided on new sanctions, and the Paris talks were only preliminary, in part because of the absence of Sergei Kisliak, Russia's top nuclear negotiator, who was blocked in Montreal by snow.
A French official briefing reporters after the Paris meeting said that the six countries had begun work on a new sanctions resolution based on a rough text drafted by Britain, and that he hoped it could be passed soon, perhaps in the coming weeks.
But he stressed that there was no agreement now, and that any resolution would have to be a compromise. "It won't be a dramatic breakthrough," he said.
R. Nicholas Burns, an under secretary of state who represented the United States at the Paris meeting, has been pressing for tougher sanctions as soon as possible, arguing that the goal is to isolate Iran until it stops enriching uranium.
The failure in London could make it easier to pass a new Security Council resolution — even if it is not as strong as the United States, Britain and France would like it to be.
The London meeting was the first time that Jalili, a close ally of Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had led negotiations on the Iranian side. His performance made clear that he brings a very different style and approach from that of his predecessor, Ali Larijani, who had taken a tough line but had shown a willingness to engage substantively on the nuclear issue.
The first hour-and-a-half of the meeting Friday was described as a monologue, with Jalili speaking about the will of the Iranian people to support uranium enrichment, theology, God, even his doctoral thesis, according to several officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity under normal diplomatic rules.
"Jalili said, 'Everything in the past is past, and with me, you start over,'" an official said. "He said, 'None of your proposals has any standing.'"
When Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said that he was under the assumption that there would be continuity in the talks, Jalili told him that was wrong.
After the meeting, Solana abandoned his habitual optimistic stance, telling reporters that he was "disappointed."
The French official described the meeting as "a disaster," adding "Jalili essentially said, 'Everything that Larijani has proposed is a dead letter and we have to start from zero.'"
The official also said that Jalili had declared, "There is no longer an Iranian nuclear problem," and had added that the only interlocutor recognized by Iran from now on would be the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The hard-line position from the Iranian side was clear confirmation that Iran would not compromise on this issue, the French official said, adding, "We have in front of us the real Iran."
An official involved in the talks put it even more bluntly, "We can't do business with these guys at this point."
Nine months ago, the Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on Iran to press it to stop enrichment and threatened more if it refused. But the six nations that united behind the sanctions have been divided over what to do next.
Russia and China have paid lip service to Iran's need to comply with Council resolutions, but also have held firm to the view that further pressure will only intensify the standoff.
The foreign ministers from the six nations agreed in September to pass a new Security Council resolution if both Solana and the United Nation's International Atomic Energy Agency did not certify that there was progress with Tehran by November.
Last week in Vienna, Mohamed ElBaradei, the agency's director, reported that while Iran was cooperating on answering questions about past nuclear activities, it also had crossed the threshold of putting into operation 3,000 centrifuges, the fast-spinning machines that enrich uranium. He added that Iranian restrictions on his inspectors precluded his agency from determining whether Iran's nuclear program was intended to generate power or make weapons.
In the meeting in London, Jalili contended that the International Atomic Energy Agency had sent a letter to Iran saying that the case involving suspicious activities in Iran's program of centrifuges was "closed."
"We have solved all our problems with the agency," an official involved in the negotiations paraphrased Jalili as saying.
Senior agency officials have told the countries involved in the negotiations that while Iran has provided important information about the centrifuge programs, the case is not closed and that any written communication would have been pro forma.
Back in Tehran on Saturday, Jalili defended Iran's position and said it was not to blame for the perceived failure of the talks.
"The fact is that we defended the Iranian nation's rights and stressed fulfilling our duties and that the Iranian nation will not accept anything that goes beyond the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty," he told reporters. "If some people have become disappointed because they cannot deprive Iran of its natural rights, then this is another matter."