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. Top Iranian deputy challenges US to join nuclear negotiations
TEHRAN (AFP) Apr 03, 2005
A prominent Iranian MP on Sunday challenged arch enemy the United States to join the European Union in negotiations on the Islamic republic's nuclear programme, saying Tehran would be ready to "examine" Washington's participation.

"The United States should either accept the results of the negotiations with the Europeans or otherwise, if they do not accept the position of their European allies, they should come to the negotiating table," Mahmoud Mohammadi told AFP.

Mohammadi, a former senior diplomat and now deputy head of the conservative-controlled Iranian parliament's national security foreign policy commission, said there was "no question of bilateral talks" with the US.

But he asserted that "if the United States wishes to assure itself of the peaceful nature of our nuclear activities, their participation in the negotiations can be examined."

Iran and the United States broke off diplomatic relations shortly after Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979. The two sides remain fiercely at odds, with the US accusing Iran of seeking to acquire nuclear weapons under the guise of an atomic energy programme.

Iran is in the midst of tough talks with Britain, France and Germany, who are trying to secure "objective guarantees" Iran will not develop the bomb. In return, the so-called EU-3 are offering a package of incentives.

The United States has given its backing to the European effort after earlier pushing to take the matter before the United Nations for possible sanctions, but has also not ruled out using force.

But the talks remain deadlocked over Iran's insistence that it maintain the right to enrich its own nuclear fuel. There are widespread fears that the technology could be diverted to produce highly enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb.

Mohammadi was critical of the US position throughout the negotiations, saying Washington "has been ignoring the results of months of negotiations with the Europeans."

The latest round of EU-Iran dialogue on the issue began in December, when Iran agreed to freeze its sensitive fuel cycle work.

In the past, Iran has given mixed signals over its attitude over the presence of the United States in the negotiations, with some officials saying it was not required and others saying it could be disastrous.

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