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. Iran and EU in flat disagreement on nuclear issue ahead of Geneva talks
VIENNA (AFP) Feb 07, 2005
Iran and the EU go into talks on Iran's nuclear program in Geneva Tuesday in flat disagreement over the most crucial point -- Tehran's abandoning uranium enrichment in order to guarantee it is not trying to make atomic weapons.

And time is pressing. A European diplomat told AFP that both sides are "complaining about a lack of speed" in reaching an accord.

Iran is waiting for incentive rewards, such as entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO). The United States would have to support this but it is not part of the European initiative and leads the West in charging that Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons.

The Europeans meanwhile expect the Islamic Republic to give up work on making enriched uranium, which can be used as fuel for atomic power reactors but also the core for nuclear weapons.

The European Union, led in the talks by Britain, France and Germany, is calling on Iran to totally dismantle its nuclear fuel program but Iran insists that it has the right, sanctified by international treaties, to work on the nuclear fuel cycle.

Iran is currently suspending all uranium enrichment-related activities to fulfill its part of a deal clinched in November with the European trio, the so-called EU3, for talks aimed at giving the Islamic Republic trade, security and technology bonuses.

The meeting in Geneva will be the third round of talks since they began in December in Brussels.

At the previous meeting in Geneva on January 17, 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," a diplomat has told AFP, reading from a confidential report on the meeting.

In Tehran on Monday, Sirus Naseri, a member of Iran's nuclear negotiations strategy committee, said Tehran would not bow to such a demand.

He told state television that Iran had already "reached the point of no return in the fuel technology issue."

Iran insists that the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) guarantees its right to peaceful enrichment activities but the Europeans say this is only when the international community is sure a country's program is peaceful.

The Iranians claim this is the case for Iran and are getting restless.

According to Iranian government spokesman Abdollah Ramazanzadeh, "the issue with the Europeans is negotiating a timetable for the resumption of nuclear activities for peaceful purposes."

"We will not allow these negotiations to go on for a long time," he said.

And powerful former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani told USA Today newspaper that he was "not satisfied with the progress" of the negotiations, "but I am happy that the talks are going on."

On Sunday, US Vice President Dick Cheney said the United States backs the European diplomatic effort but has not "eliminated any alternative."

"I think there's a good-faith effort underway by our European allies to try to resolve this issue diplomatically. We support that effort," the vice president said in an interview with Fox News.

"We have not eliminated any alternative at this point, but we obviously are seriously pursuing diplomatic resolution of this problem," Cheney said.

Washington has not ruled out using military force against Tehran although US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said last week that the "question is simply not on the agenda at this point."

The UN nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has been investigating Iran for two years, has found plenty of evidence pointing to suspicious activity but no "smoking gun" that proves Iran is seeking the bomb.

Iran insists it only wants to be self-sufficient in nuclear energy, and free up its vast oil and gas reserves for export.

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