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. Sticking points in Iran-EU nuclear talks: diplomats
VIENNA (AFP) Nov 08, 2004
Sticking points hampering a tentative agreement on getting Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment are over the length and extent of any halt, diplomats told AFP Monday, revealing first details from talks in Paris last week.

"The two sides agreed on Saturday on a provisional text, with some bracketed language," a Western diplomat said, referring to unresolved language over the two areas.

The diplomat said the first area was "over the scope of the suspension, with Iran rejecting the idea of suspending all uranium conversion work."

Uranium conversion makes the uranium gas needed for the enrichment process which makes nuclear fuel, but which can also be the raw material for atomic bombs.

The United States accuses Iran of secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons and wants the UN watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to take Iran before the UN Security Council when the IAEA meets in Vienna on November 25.

The IAEA is apparently holding up publication of a report on Iran until next week in order to have an eventual EU-Iranian agreement included in the text, a key document for the November 25 meeting, diplomats said.

Iran insists its nuclear program is a strictly peaceful one to generate electricity.

The 25-nation EU, led by Britain, France and Germany, has so far, in talks that started in October, said Iran must indefinitely and fully suspend uranium enrichment activities, but Iran insists its right to enrichment cannot be called into question.

Europe's three major powers are offering Iran nuclear technology, including access to nuclear fuel, increased trade and help with Tehran's regional security concerns if the Islamic republic halts enrichment, in an attempt to keep Iran from being taken to the Security Council, which could impose punishing sanctions.

Iran has agreed to suspend the making of the uranium hexafluoride gasthat is the actual feed for the enrichment process but "is not willing to suspend earlier stages," namely the making of yellowcake uranium ore and its next stage, UF4, which is a precursor to UF6, the Western diplomat said.

The second bracketed area is over the timing of the suspension, which the EU, represented by Britain, France and Germany in the talks, wants to be indefinite.

"Iran is pushing for a time-specific duration, namely six months," the diplomat said, but the European trio "refused and said the suspension must be maintained until a long-term agreement is reached" between Iran and the EU.

A second diplomat close to the talks said the European formula "is a clear-cut suspension, no doubt about it. It is tied to the (ongoing) talks and the talks are indefinite."

The first diplomat said Iran had tried in the talks Friday and Saturday in Paris to get a promise that the IAEA would end its almost two-year-old investigation into Tehran's nuclear program before Iran carried out a full suspension of uranium enrichment.

The Europeans rejected this outright, saying suspension must come first.

The United States insisted Monday that any nuclear accord with Iran must prevent the country from developing nuclear weapons and that it was in contact with its European allies over the preliminary agreement with Tehran.

"The international community is resolved not to allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. And we are committed to pursuing this through peaceful diplomatic means and this is what we are continuing to do," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters.

An Iranian negotiator, Hossein Moussavian, announced Sunday that Iranian and EU officials have reached a "preliminary agreement" and said this would be taken to the capitals of the four countries, and if the capitals approved it, "it will be announced officially."

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