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EU, Iran relationship enters decisive phase

Brussels, May 25, IRNA-The European Union and the Islamic Republic of Iran are to hold negotiations in Geneva on Wednesday which could be crucial for future development of ties between the two sides.

However, EU sources in Brussels are dismissing media characterization of the Geneva meeting as "last ditch," "last chance" as unreal.

"We need a little more time. We are hopeful that progress will be made. We don't think that it is the last chance," EU sources in Brussels told IRNA.

The sources , speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were "happy" that the Iranian side is speaking of 50-50 chances of a breakthrough in the Geneva talks.

"The negotiation is extremely complicated. The chances for tomorrow's meeting is fifty-fifty," Hossein Mousavian, secretary of the foreign policy committee of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, told IRNA in an interview in Brussels on Tuesday.

Mousavian was speaking after a meeting with senior foreign ministry officials from France, Germany, the UK as well as a representative of EU high representative for a common foreign and security policy, Javier Solana, to prepare for the Geneva talks.

Iran's Secretary of Supreme National Security Council Hassan Rowhani is to meet British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and Javier Solana for nuclear talks in Geneva.

In October 2003, the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany went to Iran and signed the ''Tehran agreement'' , aimed at convincing US and Europe of the peaceful nature of the Islamic Republic's nuclear programme.

The US accuses Iran of having a secret nuclear weapons programme and wants to refer Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

China and Russia are among countries that have expressed opposition to taking Iran to the UN Security Council for alleged violations of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty In December 2004, Iran took another step to convince the world about the civilian nature of its nuclear programme by signing the additional NPT protocol following an agreement with the EU-3 in Paris in November.

The Paris accord offered Iran closer economic and trade relations and nuclear technology with the 25-member European bloc in return for full cooperation with the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The UN nuclear watchdog said it has found no evidence that Iran was producing nuclear weapons.

Iran also agreed to the voluntarily suspension of its uranium enrichment program to give the EU's diplomatic initiative a chance to succeed.

But the EU, pressured by the US, is calling on Iran to permanently halt its enrichment programme. Tehran rejects the European demand arguing that under the IAEA charter it has inalienable rights to civilian nuclear technology.

Iranian officials accused the Europeans of dilly-dally tactics and of not fulfilling the Paris accord commitments.

Last April, Iran announced it would restart uranium conversion at the Isfahan plant.

In early May, EU-3 and Solana dispatched a letter to Rowhani inviting him for emergency talks to defuse the looming crisis over Iran's nuclear program.

Analysts opine that both sides have invested a lot in the diplomatic initiative and are not willing to see talks simply breakdown.

For the EU, Iran has become a test case for its policy of dialogue and engagement in contrast to US military interventions and sanctions.

A failure with Iran would mean a serious setback for EU aspirations to emerge as an influential global player.

EU officials have been underlining the big economic potential of Iran: its vital geo-strategic position and its important role in solving regional and international problems, as well as its contribution to the fight against international drug trafficking.

Better relations with Iran would guarantee a constant and stable supply of energy for the EU economy.

For its part, Iran seeks closer economic and political ties with the EU, its largest trading partner, and wants more European investments in the Islamic Republic.

Tehran is trying to win EU support for its efforts to join the WTO, a move which is being blocked by the U.S.

The turning point in EU-Iran ties was set by the visit of Dr. Kamal Kharrazi to Brussels in September 2001, the first by an Iranian foreign minister.

Since then, top EU - including foreign policy chief Javier Solana - and Iranian officials, members of parliament have been exchanging regular visits.

On June 17, 2002 the EU agreed to begin negotiations on a co-operation and trade agreement (TCA) with Iran to put bilateral ties on a contractual basis.

TCA negotiations were launched in December 2002 and after a pause of nearly a year due to the nuclear stand-off they were resumed in December 2004.

Iran and the EU are also holding a regular political and human rights dialogue with the participation of civil societies from both sides.

The political dialogue covers a wide range of issues such as terrorism, proliferation of weapons , immigration and the Palestine question.

... Payvand News - 5/25/05 ... --

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