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. Industrial powers discuss Iran nuclear tensions
WASHINGTON (AFP) Oct 15, 2004
Top officials from the Group of Eight powers met here Friday to discuss ways of making Iran give up its alleged nuclear weapons programme.

The meeting is to discuss measures proposed by Britain, France and Germany, which have led a European initiative to engage Iran over its nuclear activities.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has set a November 25 deadline for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment activities and answer all questions about its nuclear ambitions.

The United States wants the IAEA to refer Iran's case to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions action. Washington has taken an increasingly hard line on Iran, which it accuses of moving towards nuclear weapons status.

The United States is being represented at the Washington meeting by John Bolton, the State Department's under secretary for arms control and international security, and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

Top officials from the foreign ministries of the other G8 members -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia -- are also taking part.

No official details have been given on what the European nations have proposed to persuade Iran to halt uranium enrichment, a key step toward the making of a nuclear bomb.

However, on Tuesday a diplomat close to the IAEA said a package offer, spearheaded by Britain, France and Germany, giving Iran access to imported nuclear fuel in return for totally suspending its own work on the nuclear fuel cycle, was under consideration.

The Washington meeting, which is being held at the State Department, just blocks from the White House, started this morning and is expected to stretch into the afternoon, diplomatic sources said.

It comes as Iran insists its nuclear programme is purely for civilian power use.

But a top Iranian lawmaker said Thursday his country would bar international nuclear inspections if debate on its nuclear programme moved to the UN Security Council as sought by Washington.

No official statements are expected at the end of the meeting which is being portrayed by the State Department as an opportunity to discuss and exchange ideas.

Diplomatic sources said the meeting has also been convened to send a signal to Tehran that the international community is seriously concerned about the Islamic republic obtaining nuclear weapons.

Armitage has said that Washington is open to proposals regarding Iran, but that the matter must be referred to the Security Council unless Tehran comes forward quickly to resolve international concerns.

US diplomats have said a softening of its hardline policy against Tehran is not being considered, but analysts believe some incentives might be in the offing if Iran shows good will on the issue.

The sources said Washington is not likely to seek a more open dialogue with Tehran on the matter until after the November 2 presidential election here, rather than risk a political storm as voters head to the polls.

Democratic challenger John Kerry has berated President George W. Bush for failing to deal with Tehran while going to war with Iraq on faulty intelligence.

Examination of Iran's nuclear program by the UN Security Council would be a first step to imposing UN economic sanctions against the Islamic republic, something Russia, which has veto power at the Council, is likely to oppose because of its deep economic ties with the country.

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