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. Iran offers to discuss "short" extension of uranium enrichment suspension
TEHRAN (AFP) Oct 18, 2004
Iran's top nuclear negotiator said Monday the country was prepared to discuss an extension of its suspension of uranium enrichment but ruled out a definitive halt to fuel cycle work.

"If the question is that of a suspension for a short period, we can talk about it," Hassan Rowhani said.

"But if the question is of depriving Iran of its rights, that is not negotiable and the negotiating team does not have the right to discuss such a thing with the Europeans," he told Iranian state television.

"If it is a question of tactical matters, of the suspension that we have, of its extension and duration, we can talk," said Rowhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council.

Three European Union states -- Britain, France and Germany -- are this week due to present new proposals to Iran in the hope it will halt its controversial work on the nuclear fuel cycle in exchange for possible diplomatic and trade incentives.

The uranium enrichment process produces fuel for civilian reactors but is also used for production of the explosive core of atomic bombs. Washington alleges Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons, a charge Iran denies.

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.

It risks being referred to the UN Security Council, something the United States has been pushing for.

Fuel cycle work is permitted under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) -- of which the Islamic republic is a signatory -- if for peaceful purposes.

Iran agreed last October to temporarily suspend enrichment work, but has pressed on with related activites. It is also standing by what it asserts is a right under the NPT to resume enrichment.

"We have red lines and principles which we are not prepared to give up.

"It is unacceptable to say that such and such a European country or the United States has the right to nuclear power stations and the fuel cycle, but that Iran does not have the right," Rowhani said.

"Nobody can tell us that. It is illogical and contrary to international rules and the NPT. We will not give up our national right. We have decided to have nuclear power stations ... and this is not negotiable."

US Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry has spoken of a similar proposal of providing Iran with fuel in exchange for an end to fuel cycle work in the Islamic republic.

But Rowhani said this was not acceptable even though he welcomed the prospect of Iran's arch-enemy joining discussions.

"The Democrats are right to say the United States should have joined the negotiations instead of using threats," he said. "The Democrats are right when they say the Republicans have been wrong on the Iranian nuclear dossier."

"But when they say the US is ready to give nuclear fuel to Iran, a number of European countries have already said this. This is not something to refuse, but it should not come in exchange for us giving up our peaceful technology."

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