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. Iran at 'crucial point' in nuclear stand-off: Rafsanjani
TEHRAN (AFP) Nov 10, 2004
Iran is at a "crucial point" in its stand-off with the UN's nuclear watchdog, one of the country's most senior figures was quoted Wednesday as saying.

"We have arrived at a crucial point, and I hope we will reach a result," former president and top regime cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was quoted by the student news agency ISNA as saying.

"We should have patience and fortitude to pass through these tough times," he was also quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.

On Sunday, Iran and the European Union's "big three" -- Britain, France and Germany -- managed to strike a tentative agreement to avert a major confrontation after two days of tough talks in Paris.

The accord is centered on demands that Iran maintain and widen a suspension of its sensitive uranium enrichment activities, but subject to approval at the very top of the Iranian regime.

According to European diplomats, the tentative deal still contains several sticking points, including the length and extent of any halt on fuel cycle work. Both the United States on one side and Iranian hardliners on the other have been critical of the diplomacy.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is apparently holding up publication of its latest 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.

The United States accuses Iran of secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons and wants the IAEA's board, which meets in Vienna on November 25, to refer the matter to New York. Iran says it only wants to generate electricity.

But Rafsanjani said "those who are spreading false rumors are wrong, and hopefully Americans and Europeans will wise up."

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