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. EU backs diplomacy to unlock Iran nuclear conundrum
BERLIN (AFP) Jan 22, 2005
The European Union played down the threat of a US strike on Iran on Saturday, saying that a diplomatic solution to Tehran's nuclear ambitions would ultimately be found.

EU external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told a German newspaper that ultimately the EU and the United States wanted the same outcome to discussions with Iran.

"Negotiations will be difficult, but I firmly believe that diplomatic efforts will be successful," Ferrero-Waldner was quoted as saying in the Sunday newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

"I base this on the fact that no one could underestimate the consequences of a military strike -- not only on the region but also on relations between the Islamic world and the West," she said in an advance extract.

Last Monday, US President George W. Bush said he could not rule out using force if Tehran failed to rein in its nuclear plans, which he charges is a cover for the production of a nuclear bomb.

"I am not sure that President Bush made a direct threat," the commissioner said, adding: "Vice President (Dick) Cheney said that the diplomatic solution would be the best solution."

Cheney said Thursday that Iran was "right at the top of the list" of global trouble spots. He also said Iran was "a noted sponsor of terror".

But Ferrero-Waldner said, "The European Union and the United States have the same aim: to prevent Iran from getting hold of a nuclear weapon, and they both want a peaceful solution."

Ferrero-Waldner told the newspaper that the only difference between Brussels and Washington was in establishing priorities, with the Europeans preferring to give encouragement and to support moderates in Iran and the United States opting for a tougher approach.

Iran, which denies wishing to acquire a bomb, in November announced the suspension of its nuclear enrichment programme following protracted talks with Britain, France and Germany.

In mid-December, the three countries again took up talks with Tehran to try to conclude a long-term deal whereby the Iranians would definitively give up any ambitions of producing a nuclear weapon.

Meanwhile European Union Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the EU was conducting negotiations with Iran on a trade agremeent and improved cooperation, "whose contents will depend on what Iran has to offer in return in other spheres."

An interview by Barroso with Monday's edition of the weekly news magazine Der Spiegel was released in advance.

"Teheran must know clearly that it must respect its commitments," he was quoted as saying.

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