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. Iranian nuclear negotiator would welcome US help in talks
BERLIN (AFP) Feb 25, 2005
Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani said here on Friday he would welcome US assistance in talks with European nations over his country's controversial nuclear programme.

"The negotiating partners are the three European nations" Germany, France and Britain, Rowhani said, but "Iran would welcome it if the United States helped."

Rowhani, who was speaking after a meeting with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, did not clarify what he meant by "help".

The three European countries are seeking to persuade Iran to abandon the nuclear fuel cycle that can be used to make atomic weapons, in return for a lucrative economic package.

But the United States suspects Iran is developing a nuclear weapon and is skeptical about the progress of the talks with the Europeans.

White House national security advisor Stephen Hadley said this week: "The question is how can we help. It's not just a question of the carrots and sticks discussion."

Rowhani was speaking the day after Iran said it opposed any US role in the talks alongside the European Union nations.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said on Thursday that "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."

US President George W. Bush said in Bratislava on Thursday, on the final leg of his European trip, that the United States and Europe were "on the same page" over Iran, which represented his strongest endorsement yet of the EU talks.

Washington still wants to bring Iran before the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

The Europeans are trying, however, to persuade Iran to comply with international obligations in return for trade, security and technology deals.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is a peaceful effort to make electricity but refuses to abandon uranium enrichment, saying it has the right to carry out enrichment under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Fischer acknowledged that "the positions of each side are complex and difficult to reconcile" but said "the central aim is to ensure that the nuclear progress made by Iran is used solely for peaceful purposes."

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