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. Iran says nuclear suspension may last only a few months
TEHRAN (AFP) Nov 17, 2004
A senior Iranian official said Wednesday that Tehran was only likely to suspend sensitive nuclear activities surrounding the enrichment of uranium for a few months.

"We will give the nuclear experts of both sides three months. If the work groups reach an agreement, suspension will not make any sense anymore," diplomat and nuclear negotiator Hossein Moussavian told state television.

"Within three to four months at the most, we should reach a stage where we have an overall conclusion. If they come to no conclusion or say the only visible guarantee would be to halt enrichment altogether, Iran will not accept this," he added.

In an accord with Britain, France and Germany, the Islamic republic has agreed to suspend enrichment activities during negotiations on a longer-term solution to the nuclear stand-off.

The deal brokered by the so-called EU-3 offered Iran trade, security and technological incentives in return for the "confidence-building measures" aimed at easing widespread fears the regime is seeking nuclear weapons.

It came just ahead of a meeting of the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and has undermined US efforts to have Iran referred to the UN Security Council for possiblle sanctions.

The deal stipulates that Iran and the EU are to set up working groups and begin discussions in mid-December on a long-term deal that would provide "objective guarantees" Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons as well as advance talks on a potentially lucrative trade and cooperation agreement.

Iran has committed itself to maintain its enrichment suspension while the negotiations are in progress, but Moussavian's comments signal that Iran is unwilling to see them drag on far into 2005.

Ideally the EU-3 would like Iran to abandon its fuel cycle work altogether. Iran says it only wants to enrich uranium to make fuel for power generation, but there are fears that it could later produce highly-enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb.

But Iran is standing by its right to the fuel cycle, saying enrichment for peaceful purposes is permitted by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). But it has said it is ready to discuss ways in which it can operate the fuel cycle under full IAEA supervision that would ease any alarm.

Moussavian's comments also come amid presure on pragmatists in the Iranian regime from hardliners in parliament, who have blasted the deal with the Europeans as a climbdown.

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