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. Iran 'optimistic' over nuclear negotiations with EU
TEHRAN (AFP) Dec 13, 2004
Iran said Monday it was optimistic ahead of crucial talks with the European Union aimed at striking a long-term accord that would ease concerns over the country's nuclear programme.

"We are optimistic over the results of the negotiations given the good faith that we have shown and they have shown," government spokesman and cabinet secretary Abdollah Ramazanzadeh told reporters.

"I think that the negotiations will move forward in a positive manner," he added, and played down fears here that Britain, France and Germany would adopt "extremist positions influenced by third countries" -- a reference to the United States.

The European Union and Iran were beginning talks Monday on giving Tehran trade, technology and security rewards for suspending crucial nuclear activities that could be used to make weapons.

The process is fraught with difficulties since Iran says its suspension of uranium enrichment, a key step in making nuclear fuel, is a temporary measure designed to show its intentions are peaceful while EU negotiators Britain, France and Germany want the freeze to become permanent.

In addition, Ramazanzadeh said Iran was also sticking to its demand that 20 centrifuges -- the machines used to enrich uranium -- be exempted from its current suspension of enrichment activities and be used for "research".

"The question of halting research is not on the agenda," he said.

Ali Agha-Mohammadi, a member of Iran's Supreme National Security Council and part of the negotiating team, also said "it is vital that the nagotiations are oriented towards ending the enrichment and fuel cycle suspension".

The UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), on November 29 decided against referring Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions after Tehran agreed with the three EU states to suspend its enrichment programme.

Iran accepted the deal amid US threats to send the matter to the Security Council in New York.

Uranium enrichment makes fuel for civilian nuclear reactors but in highly refined form that can be the explosive core of nuclear bombs.

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