The two sides are engaged in intensive talks, centering on Tehran's uranium enrichment rights, with President Mohammad Khatami announcing this week that the two sides have made significant progress in this regard.
Giving his own assessment of last month's talks, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi described them as 'good', stressing that 'although cautionary, the last round of the negotiations has been a step forward'.
"The prospects of the negotiations are more positive than the past and we hope we will take an unreserved positive step in the next meeting," he told reporters in his weekly news briefing.
Asefi also sounded optimistic over chances that the two sides 'reach a tangible outcome on giving definite guarantees' in the next round of negotiations.
"Today, almost a majority of the European countries have recognized Iran's right to having peaceful nuclear technology and the only issue is definite guarantees, on which we will reach a conclusion in the next negotiations," he said.
The Foreign Ministry spokesman refused to disclose details of a plan offered by Iran as part of the country's proposal to reach breakthrough in the standoff, but reiterated Tehran's determination to produce nuclear fuel by its own.
"Any plan offered by Iran is based on the principle that we never give up uranium enrichment and that the suspension of enrichment is temporary and voluntary," Asefi said.
Diplomats from Iran and the European Union will meet in Paris on April 19 to examine Tehran's proposal, including pilot centrifuge for uranium enrichment on a small scale.
Khatami said Tuesday that the two sides have taken steps forward, citing the Europeans' 'very open' reaction to Iran's proposal, particularly that of France.
"I hope that during the April 29 meeting that, thanks to French support, but equally due to the welcome given the overall plan, we will be able to make even more substantial progress," he said in Paris after meeting with French President Jacques Chirac.
Khatami said the two sides were closer to a settlement over Tehran's right to develop nuclear power.
Uranium enrichment is the key sticking point in the negotiations, which Tehran has suspended as a confidence-building gesture since last November.
The country, however, insists that it cannot be cajoled to sustain the suspension for good.
The Europeans, represented by Germany, France and Britain, have been pressing the Islamic Republic on this in return for a package of incentives.
Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi stressed last month that economic incentives may help improve foreign relations but won't permanently stop Tehran from pursuing a peaceful nuclear program.
"Our (nuclear) rights cannot be exchanged for any economic incentives," he told a news conference.
Kharrazi said the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty allows Iran to pursue a peaceful nuclear program including enriching uranium and Tehran won't allow anybody to deny them that right.
"Economic incentives can't replace our rights. Our legitimate rights can't be compensated through economic incentives," Kharrazi said.
The foreign minister stated that Iran is ready to give assurances that it will not produce bomb-grade uranium.
"We do not intend to enrich to the level that is needed to make atomic bombs and have imposed a limit ... that we enrich to the level we need for nuclear (reactor) fuel," he said.
... Payvand News - 4/11/05 ... --