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. Iran to send nuclear negotiator to Europe on diplomatic offensive
TEHRAN (AFP) Sep 05, 2004
Iran said Sunday it was sending its top national security official to Europe to forestall US efforts to haul the Islamic republic before the UN Security Council over its nuclear programme.

The foreign ministry said Hassan Rowhani would travel to the Netherlands -- current holder of the EU presidency -- on Monday.

"Currently we are in very sensitive disccusions with the Europeans. Tomorrow Mr Rowhani wil got to the Netherlands to meet with Dutch officials," spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters.

Rowhani's mission will follow a weekend meeting in the Netherlands of European leaders, who appeared to be torn between pursuing efforts to engage Iran and calls for a harder line over Tehran's nuclear aims.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog, is due to discuss a new report on Tehran's atomic aims from September 13.

Asefi urged the Europeans, who have been acting as brokers between Iran and the IAEA, not to bow to pressure from the United States, which accuses the clerical regime of failing to come clean and trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Washington, which dubbed Iran part of an "axis of evil" along with Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Stalinist North Korea, plans to call at the IAEA meeting for the issue to be referred to the UN Security Council, in a move bringing sanctions a step closer.

"The Europeans should be very careful when they adopt positions. Of course we understand the Europeans are under US pressure, but the Europeans should pay attention to the report of the IAEA, which reflects a lot of realities," Asefi said.

"We hope the agency will pursue its work away from politics and act independently and professionally. I think in this atmosphere we can expand our cooperation with the agency and Europe," Asefi said.

"We are interested in easing worries and building trust, but this trust building should be two ways," he added, insisting Iran was only guarding "the right to possess and use peaceful nuclear technology."

"Iran's work was transparent and honest, and a lot of issues and ambiguities have been answered and cleared up. The IAEA has thanked Iran for its cooperation. This shows Iran has been very transparent and has no problem," Asefi said.

The Europeans seem to be in a quandary over how to proceed, given that Iran has backed away from a "confidence-building" agreement to suspend activities related to the sensitive nuclear fuel cycle.

Nuclear fuel cycle work for peaceful purposes is permitted under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but there are worries Iran could master this and then easily shift it towards military purposes.

While Iran has suspended enriching uranium, it has resumed making centrifuges and has announced its intention to engage in large-scale uranium conversion, a precursor to enrichment.

"We are going to continue the suspension of uranium enrichment," Asefi asserted. "The matter of component making is not part of the enrichment process. These two should be differentiated."

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