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. EU and Iran to resume talks after nuclear deal
BRUSSELS (AFP) Jan 11, 2005
The European Union (EU) is to resume talks with Iran on a trade and cooperation accord this week, following Tehran's suspension of uranium enrichment activities, the European Commission said Tuesday.

But in parallel EU negotiators will resume political negotiations on key areas of concern, including human rights and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, said the EU executive. "The resumption ... is a clear signal of our wish to work with Iran," said EU external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, saying the talks starting Wednesday "are an important element of a wider package."

"Iran can look forward to a richer relationship with the European Union, as long as the international community can be confident that Irans nuclear programme is not being developed for military purposes," she said.

The EU move follows the confirmation in November of Iran's suspension of its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities by the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

But tension remains notably because Tehran has agreed to maintain the suspension of its uranium enrichment activities only as long as the EU trade talks continue.

Iran maintains that its nuclear program is strictly civilian and peaceful and that it is not developing atomic weapons.

But the United States wants the IAEA to take Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions for what Washington says is a covert nuclear weapons program.

The Iran-EU trade talks, which were launched in December 2002, were suspended in mid-2003 amid mounting tensions notably over Tehran's refusal to allow snap inspections of its nuclear facilities.

The EU commission underlined that the trade talks, which are expected to involve negotiating sessions roughly every two months, are aimed at agreeing a "first generation" trade accord with the Tehran government.

This would not give Iran any preferential access to EU markets, but would confirm its trade relations on the basis of those applying to all other World Trade Organization (WTO) members, EU officials said.

The trade talks will start Wednesday, and will be followed Thursday by the resumption of political talks notably including discussion on four key areas of concern for the EU.

These are human rights, regional security in the Middle East, support for terrorism and proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), officials said.

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