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. Iran, EU sticking to positions in nuclear talks: Rowhani
TEHRAN (AFP) Nov 06, 2004
Iran and European Union officials are sticking to their positions on key questions in negotiations on the Islamic republic's nuclear programme which were underway on Saturday in Paris, a top Iranian official said.

"The two sides are sticking to their positions on the fundamental questions," Hassan Rowhani, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council and top nuclear negotiator, told state television.

He described the talks in Paris, which began Friday, as "very complicated and difficult."

The official reiterated Iran's refusal to give up what Tehran sees as its right to master the sensitive nuclear fuel cycle including enrichment, a process that critics fear could be used by Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.

The three main EU powers -- Britain, France and Germany -- are trying to get Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment in order to avoid UN sanctions.

The negotiations, which began on Friday, were said to have remained deadlocked over the duration of a suspension as well as the timing or scope of incentives that the European Union could offer Iran.

"We will not accept any constraint. It is us who will decide on the duration (of a suspension of enrichment) and we will keep it in place for as long as we want," Rowhani said.

The United States accuses Iran of secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons under cover of its civilian atomic energy program and wants the UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to take Iran before the UN Security Council when the IAEA meets in Vienna on November 25.

Iran denies it has a secret weapons programme, and insists it only wants be become self-sufficient in fuelling an atomic energy programme that would in turn free up its oil and gas resources for export.

Enrichment is permitted under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) -- the treaty overseen by the IAEA and to which Iran is a signatory -- if for peaceful purposes.

But the Europeans would rather see Iran abandon such work altogether, something Iran has refused to do -- even if it has let it be known it would consider prolonging a suspension of enrichment agreed to a year ago.

A close aide to Rowhani engaged in the Paris talks, Hossein Moussavian, told state television here that Iran wanted the Europeans to define a rapid timetable for talks in the near future in return for the continuation of an enrichment suspension.

He said Iran was not interested in "open ended" dialogue on the issue, which has already dragged on for 18 months, and said topics needed to cover "economic, political, security and technology" cooperation between Iran and the EU.

He also said Iran was expecting the EU to back its bid to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO), something that the US has been blocking.

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