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London and Berlin say no decision on Straw and Fischer's visit to Iran


The British Foreign Office insisted on Monday that a decision had yet to be made on an unprecedented EU ministerial visit to Iran, despite reports that French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin and his German counterpart were travelling to Tehran, IRNA reported from London.

"We are not in a position to confirm a visit at the moment. We are still in discussions with the French and Germans how best to stress to the Iranians the urgent need to address the international concern over its nuclear program," a Foreign Office spokesman told IRNA.

The three countries have been holding discussions since last week with the aim of reaching an agreement to provide technical help to Iran's civilian nuclear project in return for full compliance with the UN.

The Foreign Office spokesman denied that the visit had been complicated by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw having to deliver a statement to parliament about last weekend's summit on the EU's constitution due to Prime Minister Tony Blair's health problems. "He is obviously going to deliver a statement to the House this afternoon on behalf of the prime minister and obviously that will go ahead," he said.

There will be discussion going on between the three foreign ministers but they were related about "the best way of delivering" a message to Iran about its nuclear program and not Straw's delay, the spokesman said.

The joint diplomatic initiative is seen as particularly unique and an attempt for the Europeans to close ranks after the bitter disputes over the war in Iraq, in which Britain has sided with the US against France and Germany.

The discussions with Iran are reportedly over the prospect of sharing fuel and technology to meet guarantees of supplies for the country's civilian nuclear program.

In an interview with the BBC in Tehran last week, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohammad El-Baradei said that he was aware there were discussions between Iran and some of the European countries to try to "defuse the security concern." "Iran might get assurance of supply, might get nuclear technology for electricity generation, without however having to do the fuel cycle itself and rather rely on very iron-clad guarantees," he said about the discussions.

El-Baradei said he hoped that such settlement will be possible in the future and that it could lead to "new chapter in the relationship between Iran and the West, particularly Europe."

"I think it would be a win-win situation. Iran will get the energy needs they have, however without raising an anxiety about any sensitive fuel cycle activities," he said.

Berlin says "no decision yet" on Fischer's Iran trip

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Walter Lindner on Monday said no decision has been made yet as to whether Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer would accompany his French and British counterparts in a trip to Iran in an attempt to solve the dispute over Iran's nuclear programme, IRNA reported from Berlin.

"There has been no decision made yet as to whether such a trip (to Iran) would take place," the official told IRNA.

Meanwhile, a high-ranking German government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said to IRNA that a decision on the Fischer's visit could "possibly be made on a short-term notice".

German press reported over the weekend that British, French and German foreign ministers were planning this week an unprecedented joint diplomatic mission to Iran to settle lingering differences over Tehran's nuclear programme.

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