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Iran braces for fresh round of talks with Europeans

Tehran, Jan 2, IRNA -- Iran and the Europeans will meet in the coming days for a fresh round of 'intensive and comprehensive negotiations' here about Tehran's nuclear program, a senior Foreign Ministry official announced in Tehran on Sunday.

However, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi disclosed that Tehran is not fully satisfied with the outcome of the talks held so far -- a rare acknowledgement which could embolden those Iranian hawks who say such talks have only had Tehran compromise one right after the other.

"It is not to say we are fully satisfied with our negotiations with the Europeans. We have not arrived at our expectations, but the negotiations will continue until we reach a favorable conclusion," Asefi said in his weekly news briefing.

The official said a group of European delegates will arrive in Iran in the coming days to discuss details of a light-water power reactor which they have promised to build in the Islamic Republic.

"The intensive and broad negotiations will start in the coming days...but we will never relinquish any right," Asefi said, reiterating Iran's call for building 'two-way confidence'.

The visit follows Iran's agreement with the Europeans in November to suspend uranium enrichment activities in return for a package of incentives, including EU's assistance in the construction of a light-water power reactor in Iran.

Iran is already building a nuclear reactor in the southern city of Bushehr with Russian assistance under a 800-million-dollar deal, with the project planned to come on stream in 2006.

Tehran insists that its nuclear program is solely aimed at power generation and strongly rejects US claims that the program is a front for building atomic bombs.

Iran agreed in November to suspend uranium enrichment under an agreement reached in Paris with Britain, France and Germany, which represent the European Union, in exchange for trade, technology and security incentives.

Uranium enrichment is allowed under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which Iran is a signatory, and the country wants it as part of its efforts to master a nuclear fuel cycle.

The EU incentives reportedly include a guaranteed supply of reactor fuel, assistance to construction of a light-water power reactor and a resumption of stalled trade talks.

Several rounds of talks on a mutual trade and cooperation agreement (TCA) had been held between the two sides before Iran's nuclear issue was catapulted into the center of their talks.

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.

... Payvand News - 1/2/05 ... --

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