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. Iran reaffirms full nuclear program ahead of talks with EU
PARIS (AFP) Mar 23, 2005
EU-Iran nuclear talks resume Wednesday with Tehran sticking to a full-scale nuclear program despite European demands for it to abandon fuel activities to prove it is not secretly developing atomic weapons.

Hossein Mousavian, who is to co-chair the Iranian team at the talks in Paris, warned on state radio in Tehran that lack of progress at the meeting could force Iran to pull out of the negotiations, which began in December.

Western diplomats have said they expect Wednesday's talks, a review of progress so far, to be inconclusive but not to scuttle the process, especially with the Iranians unable to take firm positions ahead of presidential elections in their country in June and with what is likely to be a long negotiating process still in its early stages.

The United States, which charges that Iran has a covert nuclear weapons program, has softened its stance and agreed to support European countries in offering the Islamic Republic incentives if it gives up enrichment.

Europe and Iran are however in flat disagreement over the issue of uranium enrichment, which makes fuel for civilian nuclear reactors but also what in highly refined form can be the explosive core of atom bombs.

The EU, anxious to be seen as tough in order to keep US support, insists that Iran stop this and other fuel cycle activities but Iran categorically refuses.

"The Iranians are crystal clear about what is expected of them," a Western diplomat close to the talks told AFP.

The diplomat said Tehran had failed to provide specific explanations after saying in previous negotiating rounds that it could give "objective guarantees" its nuclear intentions are peaceful while still enriching uranium to low levels.

This will be a key subject matter Wednesday, the diplomat said, in talks set for one day according to the Europeans but possibly two days according to the Iranians, whom Western diplomats said may be looking for maneuvering room.

Mousavian said: "Iran has a legitimate right to a nuclear fuel cycle and will not give it up for any incentives."

"If there is progress in the negotiations we will continue (the talks) for (another) three months, but if there is no progress and we notice the other side is wasting time, Iran will revise its position," he added.

Moussavian said conclusions from the meeting in Paris "will be taken to their respective capitals for making a decision."

Mohammad Saeidi, vice president of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), told a conference on nuclear power Tuesday in Paris that the Iranian program aims for "self-sufficiency in all aspects of the peaceful use of nuclear energy, including the provision of nuclear fuel."

"Iran has to put into place a system for mining and processing uranium ores and also for its conversion and enrichment," he said.

"The people and government of Iran are determined to open their way through the tortuous path of peaceful use of nuclear technology despite all imposed restrictions and difficulties," Saeidi said, referring to US sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Saeidi said that Iran, one of the world's major oil producers, still needed nuclear energy "to reverse the trend of unrestrained use of fossil resources."

But Western diplomats say Iran has no economic rationale for making nuclear fuel, since it can buy this from abroad, as it has agreed to do for a light-water power reactor Russia is building in Iran.

In addition, Iran is building a heavy-water research reactor, which uses natural uranium rather than enriched uranium, Saeidi said.

The heavy-water reactor, which is being built at Arak, produces plutonium, from which atom bombs can also be built.

Saeidi said the Arak reactor was intended to made medical isotopes.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in an interview with a Muslim magazine that nobody is planning military action against Iran over its nuclear programme "at the moment."

"Let's just pursue the diplomatic path for the moment," Blair said.

All rights reserved. 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.

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