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. Iran warns EU against 'threats' in nuclear negotiations
TEHRAN (AFP) Mar 15, 2005
Iran's foreign minister on Tuesday warned the European Union not to use "threats" in negotiations aimed at easing international concerns over the country's nuclear ambitions, saying Tehran was sticking by its demand to one day resume uranium enrichment.

Kamal Kharazi said Iran had agreed with Britain, France and Germany when talks kicked off late last year "that any threat against Iran" would be a violation of an accord that saw Tehran freeze its sensitive nuclear activities while negotiations continued.

"The European leaders should be more careful, because their comments can be seen as a violation of the accord," Kharazi told a news conference.

Foreign ministers from the three EU countries said in a report released in Brussels on Friday that they were trying to get "objective guarantees that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes".

The report by Jack Straw, Michel Barnier and Joschka Fischer said Iran must maintain a freeze "while long-term arrangements are being negotiated", as well as show "full cooperation" with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

They also warned that if Iran failed to do this, the Europeans would "have no choice but to support referring Iran's nuclear programme" to the UN Security Council, as sought by Washington.

Tehran agreed in November to suspend its enrichment activities as a goodwill gesture, but the Europeans want the suspension to become permanent, a demand the Iranians have termed "absurd".

Iran says it has the right to enrich uranium to low levels to produce atomic fuel for civilian power stations, but highly enriched uranium can provide the core for an atomic bomb.

Kharazi said Iran would soon be presenting "its proposal on objective guarantees".

"This proposal is attractive. We hope the Europeans will have a serious attitude," he said.

The two sides are to convene on March 23 for a high-level steering committee meeting, and Kharazi said he wanted to see an agreement on "a formula that recognises the right of Iran to continue enrichment and lifts the concerns over the Iranian nuclear programme".

"In exchange, the Europeans have to give firm guarantees that open the path towards greater cooperation in the fields of politics and investment," Kharazi said.

"We do not want to enrich uranium to high levels, we want to enrich to the 3.5 percent" required for an atomic power station, he asserted.

Britain, France and Germany have been trying to secure "objective guarantees" from Iran, and in exchange they are offering a package of trade, security and technology benefits to the Islamic republic.

Washington, which charges that Iran has a covert nuclear weapons program, wants to take Iran before the Security Council for possible sanctions but has decided to give the European initiative a chance.

The United States on Friday announced it would help the EU put together the incentives by dropping objections to Iran joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and allowing it access to spare parts for its civilian aircraft.

Iran has however played down the importance of such offers, saying it has a right to join the WTO anyway and that sanctions affecting the maintenance of its decrepit civilian aircraft fleet were unfair to begin with.

Kharazi described the US offer as "insignificant and ridiculous".

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