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Iran, EU3 brace for nuclear talks Tuesday

Vienna, April 18, IRNA-Diplomats from Iran and three European heavyweights will sit down here Tuesday for a new round of nuclear talks, with one EU official stressing that dialogue was the only solution to the lingering standoff.

"Only through dialogue one can find a solution to this problem and remove differences," a representative of Austria's Social Democrats in the European Parliament told IRNA here Monday.

The two sides will meet here Tuesday at a working group level, with Iran's proposal to maintain uranium enrichment at a small scale being the focus of discussions.

"Iran must assure that it will not deviate from peaceful use of nuclear program toward military purposes, while the Europeans and the United States must provide Iran with security guarantees," the official said.

He said the Europeans must assure Tehran it would not come under any military attack and push ahead with expanding economic relations with the Islamic Republic.

IRAN'S GUARDED OPTIMISM Iran has sounded upbeat ahead of the planned nuclear negotiations in Geneva, which are expected to examine Tehran's proposal to maintain a pilot centrifuge for uranium enrichment on a small scale.

The head of Iran's negotiating team, Sirous Nasseri, has said that the two sides will discuss technical matters relating to the principles and the framework of the Islamic Republic's proposal.

The official, speaking to IRNA Saturday, avoided making any prediction, saying 'any definite assessment in this regard depends on the provision that we are assured the Europeans are serious in the meetings which will be held over the next two two weeks'.

"Time will definitely be limited and whenever we feel no tangible progress is being made, we will halt negotiations then and there.

"Thus, whether in our official or unofficial sessions, we must be sure that any progress is moving us toward a real, and not a superficial, solution," he added.

The official, however, stressed that the talks 'are on the right track, leading to a wise, logical and balanced solution satisfactory to both sides'.

The key sticking point is uranium enrichment which Tehran has suspended as a confidence-building gesture since last November, but the country insists that it cannot be cajoled to sustain the suspension for good.

The Europeans have been pressing the Islamic Republic on this in return for a package of incentives. Iran stresses that economic incentives may help improve foreign relations but won't permanently stop Tehran from pursuing a peaceful nuclear program.

According to President Mohammad Khatami, 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 to the overall plan, we will be able to make even more substantial progress," he said in Paris after meeting with French President Jacques Chirac recently.

The April 29 meeting will be held in London with the participation of senior foreign ministry officials from the two sides.

Khatami says the two sides are closer to a settlement over Tehran's right to develop nuclear power.

Last Tuesday, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, expressed optimism that he would eventually be able to tell Tehran that it has the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, according to the Associated Press.

EU diplomats were quoted as saying that Chirac has been pushing the EU to drop its refusal to consider letting Iran enrich uranium.

Iran says its nuclear program is aimed at power generation in the face of US accusations that the program may be a cover to build atomic weapons, a charge Tehran vehemently denies.

In a dramatic U-turn last month, the United States offered to allow Iran to begin talks on joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) and consider letting it buy civilian airline parts as part of incentives to Tehran over its nuclear cooperation.

According to Nasseri, Washington seems lately to be taking a more down-to-earth approach towards Iran's nuclear program, closer to that of the Europeans.

The senior official however played down US engagement in the marathon talks between Tehran and the EU trio of Britain, Germany and France, aimed at finding a concrete solution to the ongoing standoff.

"I personally do not see any need for the presence of the Americans at the negotiations and even don't believe it could be helpful," Nasseri said.

The official said the United States seems to have started abandoning its threats against Iran, realizing the country's weight in the Middle East.

"We think the Americans are gradually starting to become aware of the realities in the political scene of the region, including the extent and amount of Iran's influence in regional developments, particularly in Afghanistan, Iran and Lebanon.

"The Americans must have come to their sense and realized that there is no possibility of a confrontation with Iran and if they initiate a confrontation, the risks of vulnerability will be high." Nasseri said, "When they started their threats two years ago, the Americans were seeing themselves at the apogee of their power, cherishing sweet dreams and hoping to change the regional situation according to their will.

"But today, the Americans have woken up to their ignorance and at least some sections of the ruling establishment, including its extremists elements, have started to adapt to the realities," Nasseri said.

Talks between Iran and the Europeans have focused on political cooperation as well as trade cooperation agreement, with the next round scheduled for April 19.

The EU-Iran talks began after President Mohammad Khatami came to power in May 1997, with the EU taking up a policy of 'comprehensive dialogue' with the Islamic Republic in the form of biannual Troika meetings on political and economic issues.

The political part of the dialogue covers issues regarding conflicts, including in the Middle East, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, human rights and terrorism.

On the economic front, the European Union is exploring possibilities for cooperation with Iran in energy, trade and investment as well as refugees and drugs control.

The EU is Iran's biggest trading partner, with oil accounting for over 80 percent of Tehran's exports to the EU. Iran also sells agricultural products -- mainly pistachios -- as well as textiles and carpets to the EU.

The negotiations are being held in parallel by three working groups which follow them in three categories of economy and trade, political and security as well as technical and nuclear.

... Payvand News - 4/19/05 ... --

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