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. Iran denies nuclear talks with EU at an impasse
TEHRAN (AFP) Jan 27, 2005
Iran has denied that its negotiations with three major European powers over its nuclear programme are at an impasse, the local press reported Thursday.

The comments by foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi came after the emergence of reports that the EU was hardening its stance towards Iran and calling on Tehran to completely dismantle its nuclear fuel programme in order to guarantee that it does not seek atomic weapons.

"The publication of such reports is aimed at overshadowing the constructive nature of the negotiations and demonstrates the discontent of those who are not satisfied with their progress and are trying to prevent their success," Asefi was quoted as saying.

Iran, accused by Washington of trying to build an atomic bomb, has suspended uranium enrichment as a confidence-building measure but the EU now wants the Islamic republic to definitively abandon enrichment as well as any activities for making plutonium.

According to a report on a closed-door meeting in Geneva this month, representatives of Britain, France and Germany told Iran that "nothing short of full cessation and dismantling of Iran's fuel cycle efforts would give the EU3 the objective guarantees they need that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful."

Iran insists that its nuclear activities are peaceful and that the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty guarantees its right to peaceful enrichment activities.

The Geneva meeting was the second round of talks on a potentially lucrative trade pact after a deal clinched in November by the European bloc's three most powerful members for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, the key process that makes what can be fuel for nuclear reactors but also the explosive core of atomic bombs.

The trade deal forms part of a package of incentives for Iran if the talks produce "objective guarantees" the country is not seeking to develop nuclear weapons, as the United States charges it is doing.

But according to top nuclear negotiator and diplomat Hossein Moussavian, "the question of halting Iran's nuclear activities has never been a part of the negotiations" with the EU.

"The objective that has been fixed is for Iran to deliver objective guarantees to the other side so that they can be certain the Iranian nuclear fuel cycle will always stay peaceful and never be used to make an atomic bomb," he was quoted as saying by the Shargh newspaper.

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