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Iran and EU to wrap up nuclear talks Thursday night

Vienna, March 10, IRNA -- Negotiators from Iran and the European Union huddled behind closed doors in Vienna on Thursday for a new round of haggling over Tehran's nuclear program, but remained tight-lip over the results.

The talks, which started Tuesday, are expected to wrap up Thursday night, when the two sides 'will draw up their conclusions and present them to the technical committee', the head of the Iranian team, Sirous Nasseri, said.

The committee, comprising representatives from both sides, will meet next week to examine the conclusions, Nasseri said. He, however, refused to announce his assessment of the negotiations.

"The negotiations will carry on until Thursday night and any assessment and conclusion must be made after then," he said when pressed by IRNA reporter.

Nasseri said the first round of technical negotiations on Iran's nuclear program was held at the French embassy Wednesday, and was taken up at the Iranian embassy Thursday.

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.

The talks are the fourth of their kind, held over the past three months, which started in the Belgian capital of Brussels and were then moved to Vienna.

Some observers see the chances of a breakthrough in the standoff, including a likely agreement, as remote.

However, Iran's pointsman on nuclear issues, Hassan Rowhani, sounded upbeat, describing the talks as 'successful'.

His statements came as several Iranian officials lined up in recent days to warn that Tehran might be forced to abandon the diplomatic process if pressed too far.

"Our negotiations with the European sides on the country's nuclear technology have been successful so far," Rowhani, who is the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, said in the southern city of Shiraz Thursday.

The official assured the world again about Iran's nuclear intentions, stressing that the efforts were solely aimed at power generation, while blaming western media for a flurry of misgivings which remain in the air.

"The enemies of the Islamic Republic, with their malicious propaganda against us, have created fear among the world countries.

"Basically, we are not after a conquest; rather, we are after friendship, good neighborliness as well as detente and we believe wars, animosity and skirmishes lead the country to backwardness," Rowhani said.

The official shrugged off American pressures on Iran, including its efforts to haul Tehran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

"The Americans, since the opening of Iran's nuclear dossier over the past one year and so, have realized that they cannot achieve their desired outcome regarding Iran's nuclear energy (program) with threats and sanctions."

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza stressed Tuesday that Tehran was not afraid of being referred to the UN Security Council.

"The rights and interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran stand above anything else," 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.

He pledged that Iran would 'strongly stand against' probable pressures as the country battened down the hatches for a new round of nuclear negotiations with the Europeans, which he described as 'very decisive'.

"The next few days' negotiations are very decisive in Iran's nuclear dossier," Asefi said.

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.

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

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'.

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 - 3/10/05 ... --

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