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EU united in continuing engagement with Iran

The European Union was deeply divided over the issue of war against Iraq, but the 15-member bloc is united on the process of dialogue and engagement with the Islamic Republic, IRNA reported from Brussels, Belgium.

The fourth round of EU-Iran negotiations on a Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TAC) along with political negotiations will be held in Tehran from June 1-3.

''We are very committed to the dialogue and engagement with Iran. We made good progress. We hope very much it will continue this way,'' Emma Udwin, spokeswoman for the European Commission's external relations, told IRNA in Brussels.

The Tehran meeting comes amid threatening rhetoric from the US against Iran. Analysts here explain that Washington's unfounded harsh tone is to cover up its failures in Iraq and divert public opinion.

The weapons of mass destruction was the main reason for the Americans to launch the war against Iraq. They have found none.

Moreover, US occupation forces are facing growing opposition and resistance from the Iraqi population.

''Hardly anybody takes the US accusations against Iran seriously. Just a few weeks ago they were making similar charges against Syria,'' said one analyst who requested anonymity.

Iran and the EU launched landmark talks on a TCA in December last year to put their bilateral relations on a solid basis.

In parallel they also began political negotiations that deal with issues like fight against terrorism and drug trafficking, weapons of mass destruction, human rights.

Moreover, EU and Iran also launched last December a dialogue on human rights with the participation of government officials, NGOs, academics and human rights groups.

The upcoming TCA negotiations in Tehran will focus on trade issues such as customs, rules of origin, procurement etc.

During the third round of negotiations, held in Brussels in April, the EU gave a lot of background material to Iran on the issues under discussion.

''We are looking forward for a feedback from the Iranians. Things are positive. We are at an early stage of the negotiations. We are still explaining a lot of things,'' Udwin told IRNA.

The TCA negotiations are being conducted by the commission, the executive body of the EU. The political negotiations are led by the member state that holds the EU presidency, currently Greece.

Udwin said that the commission is in close discussions with Iran on the Islamic Republic's nuclear programme.

The EU, she said, is waiting for the report of IAEA Director General Mohamed El-Baradei on June 16 on Iran's nuclear programme.

The spokeswoman said the EU thinks that if Iran signs the additional protocol to the nuclear treaty, ''it will send a positive signal to the region and to the international community.''

''We want to continue the engagement and it will be helpful for us to continue if Iran signs the additional protocol. Transparency will be a very positive signal at a moment when the international community is concerned about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,'' noted Udwin.

''We listen carefully to what the Iranians say,'' Udwin noted, referring to the recent meeting in Paris between Iranian Foreign Minister Dr. Kamal Kharrazi and EU Commissioner for external relations Chris Patten.

''We hear from the Iranian government that Iran's nuclear programme is purely for civil purposes. We know that Iran adheres to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and treaties on chemical and biological weapons.''

''It is all positive, and by agreeing to transparency on NNPT Iran will send a very positive signal to the world,'' Udwin underlined.

... Payvand News - 5/30/03 ... --

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