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Iran hardens stance ahead of nuclear negotiations

Tehran, March 8, IRNA -- Iran pledged Tuesday to 'strongly stand against' probable pressures as the country braced for a new round of nuclear negotiations with the Europeans, which a senior official described as 'very decisive'.

"The next few days' negotiations are very decisive in Iran's nuclear dossier," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said of the talks which started in Geneva Tuesday and are expected to last for three days.

Asked what will Iran do if the Europeans refuse to accept the country's position, Asefi said, "We will strongly stand against them and say 'no' to their proposals.

"This is the first time that the Europeans have got involved in a big case and want to solve it, thus it is very hard for them.

"We hope this will not be the last round of negotiations and they will continue, but this depends on how the Europeans behave."

The official stressed that Tehran was not afraid of being referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions. "The rights and interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran stand above anything," he said.

"The Iranian people regard access to nuclear technology as their obvious right and according to surveys carried out among various walks of life, an absolute majority of the Iranians approve of it," Asefi added.

The key sticking point in the negotiations 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, represented by Germany, France and Britain, have been pressing the Islamic Republic on this in return for a package of incentives.

On Monday, a senior parliamentary official warned the Europeans to drop asking Iran to permanently suspend uranium enrichment or see ongoing nuclear negotiations scrapped.

"If the Europeans maintain their new language on Iran in the next month's negotiations, it will be our last nuclear negotiations with them," the head of parliament's foreign policy commission, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, said.

"In the last round of negotiations between Iran and the Europeans, the latter adopted a new language, talking about permanent cessation of enrichment," he said, adding naturally, this is by no means acceptable to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Members of the Iranian negotiating team meet with their European counterparts in Geneva this week in their latest round of marathon talks to reach a breakthrough in the nuclear standoff.

On Sunday, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi reiterated Iran's dismissal of challenges to the country's efforts to master nuclear fuel cycle.

"Access to the technology of nuclear fuel cycle so long as it is not aimed at acquiring nuclear weapons while being subject to the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency must not face any impediment," he told a forum on nuclear technology held here.

Asefi hoped Iran would make great achievements in its nuclear negotiations.

"We have had some achievements so far and our nuclear negotiations over the past few years have never been fruitless," he said.

... Payvand News - 3/8/05 ... --

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