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. Iran rejects US role in nuclear talks
TEHRAN (AFP) Feb 24, 2005
Iran said Thursday that it opposed US participation in nuclear talks alongside the European Union, just two days after a government-linked think-tank floated the idea.

"The Islamic republic sees no reason for US participation in the discussions between Iran and Europe," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told the official IRNA news agency.

"If the Americans joined the talks, the best that could happen is that they would bring nothing to the negotiations and in the worst case scenario they would sabotage everything.

"We hope that the Europeans will continue to act independently," he said, charging that it was Washington's aim to convince them that they could not hope to deal alone with Iran on an issue as sensitive as nuclear technology.

On Tuesday, the deputy director of a foreign ministry-affiliated think-tank had suggested that, despite the absence of diplomatic relations, Tehran was ready to talk with Washington in a bid to disprove US-led accusations that its nuclear programme was a cover for efforts to develop the bomb.

"On the specific topic of the nuclear programme, Iran is ready to enter into negotiations with the US to prove the civilian nature of the nuclear programme," Mahmud Vaezi told IRNA.

Britain, France and Germany are leading diplomatic efforts to persuade Iran to permanently abandon its nuclear enrichment programme in return for a package of political and economic benefits.

Iran and the United States have had no diplomatic relations since soon after the 1979 Islamic revolution. Tehran derides Washington as the "great Satan", while US President George W. Bush has said that the Islamic regime is part of an "axis of evil".

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