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. Europe seeks deadline for Iran to allay nuclear fears
BRUSSELS (AFP) Sep 13, 2004
Key European governments turned up the pressure on Iran over its nuclear plans Monday, giving Tehran a November deadline to allay concern it is secretly making atomic weapons.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer warned Iran it faces "serious" consequences unless it fulfils a pledge to stop uranium enrichment for alleged military purposes.

His French counterpart Michel Barnier confirmed that Britain, France and Germany -- who have spearheaded Europe's diplomatic offensive over Iran -- were seeking a draft resolution from the UN's nuclear watchdog, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Barnier did not rule out that the IAEA would bring Iran before the UN Security Council if Tehran refused to cooperate, as the United States has been urging, but expressed hope that a political solution was possible.

"Our three countries are today proposing a draft resolution in Vienna which calls on the IAEA director general to make an objective and impartial assessment of Iran's nuclear program by November to clarify matters," he said.

"At that time we will have various choices before us: either our concerns remain and we will have the option of sending the case to the UN Security Council. Or -- and it is what we hope, what I hope -- Iran will show it can be trusted and the affair can be defused in Vienna," he said.

The United States says Iran is secretly developing nuclear arms, in defiance of the international community, and should be taken before the UN Security Council for punishing sanctions.

Germany's Fischer said that Iran "should do everything to meet its commitments ... It is in their interests," he said, warning of "the risk of a miscalculation" by Tehran.

"I hope they realize that ... otherwise we will find ourselves in a serious situation," he said. "It would be a miscalculation to think one could get out of an agreement we made," he added.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw meanwhile vowed to maintain pressure on Iran over its nuclear plans, warning that Tehran had made commitments and now must fulfil them.

Speaking at a meeting of EU foreign ministers, he said Iran has the right to develop nuclear technology for civilian purposes, but raised questions over Tehran's assurances about military nuclear plans.

"We've taken a consistent line, a firm line in respect to Iran with our partners in France and in Germany," he said.

He said that Iran had promised the EU trio last October that they would suspend all uranium enrichmement and related activities. "Since then they have said that they are going to restart part of that process.

"That has undermined confidence in the international community in Iran's intentions; they cannot turn the issue of confidence on and off like a tap," he said.

Speaking after the EU talks, Straw held out the carrot of positive benefits for Iran if it does what they want.

"We all hope that this issue can be resolved in a satisfactory manner, and then as we promised the Iranians, a more positive cooperation which they and we want can be put in place."

In Vienna Monday IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said that there was no deadline for ending an investigation into Iran's nuclear program, even though Iran said it expects the probe to wrap up in November.

"It's an open process and we will finish when I believe we are finished," said ElBaradei.

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