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Iran prods Europeans for progress in nuclear talks

Tehran, April 20, IRNA-Iran announced Wednesday that it would wait for 'a couple of more months and not years' to settle differences in its nuclear talks with the Europeans, or ditch the negotiations.

"If the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the Europeans do not lead to a resolution in the next couple of months, we will break them off," the head of the Supreme National Security Council, Hassan Rowhani, said.

"The negotiations must be restricted to the span of the month; there is no question of years. If they reach a resolution in the next couple of months, we will continue them; otherwise we will halt them," he told reporters after attending a closed-door parliament session.

The senior official stressed that Tehran would judge the Europeans according to their 'sincerity' toward the 'basis of the negotiations' which he said was 'the mechanism of uranium enrichment without causing any concerns'.

"Our arrangements with the Europeans since March 23 have been such that only issues tabled by Iran are discussed," Rowhani said, adding, "There is no question of a halt to the enrichment and the basis (of the talks) is how Iran's ideas are implemented and how enrichment is carried out without causing concerns.

"The basis of the negotiations must be moving forward and that we take a step forward in each round of the negotiations and we are assured that we reach a resolution in the near future.

"But whenever we feel the negotiations are useless and the Europeans want to waste time ... we will halt them then and there and there is no timetable for this," Rowhani said.

The official said Iran had proposed ideas in order to move out of the existing stalemate and accelerate the negotiations.

"The criteria in the negotiations must be how to actualize tangible guarantees so that they reach a firm conclusion," Rowhani said.

The official stated that a proposal mooted in certain sections of the media as being Iran's compromise offer to the effect that the country maintains a pilot centrifuge was not actually Tehran's.

"Ultimately, the Islamic Republic will not reduce its enrichment capacity. However, the question is how we go through the stages in the negotiations and these are not anything to be revealed to the public," he said.

Rowhani's statements came as diplomats from Iran and the three European heavyweights huddled in Geneva Tuesday for a new round of nuclear talks.

The two sides are meeting at a working group level, ahead of another meeting in London at a higher level of foreign ministry officials.

Iran has sounded upbeat ahead of the planned nuclear negotiations, with the head of Iran's negotiating team, Sirous Nasseri, saying that the two sides would 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, 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.

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.

... Payvand News - 4/21/05 ... --

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