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. Iran's top nuclear negotiator to hold talks in Paris Thursday
PARIS (AFP) Feb 23, 2005
Iran's top nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani is to hold talks with French President Jacques Chirac on Thursday in Paris, Chirac's office said.

Chirac will receive Rowhani at the Elysee Palace at 4:30 pm (1530 GMT), and the Iranian official will also hold talks with other top French officials on the subject of his country's nuclear programme, the foreign ministry said.

After Paris, the Iranian official is to travel on to Berlin and London, to meet the other key players in the European Union's ongoing negotiations aimed at convincing Tehran to definitively abandon its nuclear ambitions.

Washington has alleged that Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons, a charge that Tehran vehemently denies, saying that its nuclear programme is completely peaceful.

In Tehran, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi said that Iran was determined to resume uranium enrichment, which can be a key step towards developing nuclear weapons.

"We are determined to continue enrichment and others cannot stop us," he told reporters on his return from a trip to India, calling on the Europeans to take "serious steps" in their negotiations with Iran on its nuclear activities.

EU nations led by France, Britain and Germany have been pursuing the carrot rather than stick approach, by seeking to persuade Iran to comply with its international obligations in return for a lucrative package of trade deals.

Visiting US President George W. Bush and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Wednesday united in warning Iran against developing a nuclear weapon, although Bush sought to ease European concerns that Washington plans to use military force against Iran.

While maintaining that "all options are on the table," Bush stressed during the talks in Germany that "diplomacy is just beginning" and that "Iran is not Iraq."

Chirac, meanwhile, called on Tuesday for a sign to be sent to Iran as part of the negotiations, focusing for example on its desire to join the World Trade Organisation or to obtain civilian aircraft engines.

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