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. Iran rejects negotiations with US on nuclear issue
TEHRAN (AFP) Dec 15, 2004
Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi on Wednesday rejected any talks with the United States on the standoff over Iran's nuclear programme because of Washington's hostile attitude towards the Islamic republic.

"With the existing US hostile policies, there are no grounds for negotiations with Washington. If they deal with Iran on the basis of mutual respect and equality, then we would start talks with them like other countries," he said after a weekly cabinet meeting.

"There are no such conditions. In fact there no talks about theirparticipation in negotiations between Iran and the Europeans, and the Europeans have not proposed such a thing," Kharazi told reporters.

Washington, regarded by the Islamic republic as the "Great Satan," accuses Iran of covertly developing nuclear weapons -- allegations that are vehemently denied by Tehran.

Meanwhile, top nuclear official Hassan Rowhani reiterated that Iran would not accept long drawn-out talks with the EU powers over a trade deal, offered in exchange for Tehran's decision to suspend its controversial atomic activities.

"I must say that the duration of the negotiations constitutes a red line. The negotiations should not be lengthy," Rowhani was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.

He was speaking on his return from Brussels talks on the prospective European deal with the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain, and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

Under an agreement struck in Paris last month, Iran agreed to suspend uranium enrichment in return for trade, technology and security rewards.

Talks began Monday with the focus on giving Tehran the trade, technology and security rewards in return for suspending uranium enrichment.

"We have reminded the Europeans that the duration of the negotiations should not be too long and that the suspension of (uranium) enrichment is valid only for the duration of the negotiations," Rowhani added.

Iran has said a first evaluation of the negotiations with the European Union would be carried out after three months.

Asked about US opposition to the re-election of Mohamed ElBaradei as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rowhani said a renewal of his mandate would make no difference to Tehran.

"It does not make any difference in our eyes whom ever is elected for the post, since our case there is reaching its final stages," he said. "In addition, the director's appointment does not have any influence on our cooperation with the IAEA and we will continue our cooperation."

On Sunday, the Washington Post reported that the US administration has bugged telephone calls between ElBaradei and Iranian diplomats, seeking ammunition to oust him as head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency.

Some US officials maintain that ElBaradai was too soft on Tehran since the IAEA began monitoring Iranian activities in February 2003.

Despite US pressures, the IAEA has confirmed that Iran had suspended all the ultra-sensitive activities of uranium enrichment and therefore was saved from his case being sent before the UN Security Council.

The White House, however, has called on the international community to "remain vigilant" and has not ruled out making a unilateral Security Council referral despite the Paris accord.

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