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. Iran still hopes for deal with Europeans on peaceful use of nuclear energy
VIENNA (AFP) Apr 04, 2005
Iran still hopes to strike a deal with the European Union on its peaceful use of nuclear energy and assuage fears that it is trying to develop atomic weapons, President Mohammad Khatami said here Monday.

Khatami said on a visit to Vienna that the two sides were working "to find a solution to the right of our land for the peaceful development of nuclear energy and also to overcome the worries of our European colleagues" about Tehran's nuclear program.

Iran has been negotiating since December with Britain, France and Germany to win trade, security and technology rewards in return for giving guarantees that it is not trying to develop nuclear weapons.

The talks are deadlocked over the Islamic republic's refusal to abandon uranium enrichment, the key process which makes fuel for civilian reactors but also what can be the explosive core of atom bombs.

The EU is currently considering, ahead of a meeting next week with Iranian negotiators in Geneva, a proposal by Tehran to allow it to produce enriched uranium on a small scale.

Iran made the written proposal to be allowed to run a pilot centrifuge enrichment project at a meeting in Paris in March with the three EU negotiating states.

But European diplomats say their position remains that Iran must abandon all enrichment activities.

A Western diplomat told AFP that the United States will only back the EU initiative, as it currently does, if Europe maintains its demand for a permanent cessation of enrichment.

Otherwise, Washington will seek to take Iran before the UN Security Council, where it could face possible economic and other sanctions.

Khatami told reporters after meeting with Austrian President Heinz Fischer that he hoped Austria could help Iran in the talks due to its important role within the EU.

Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik said after meeting with her Iranian counterpart Kamal Kharazi that she expected the talks in Geneva to yield progress on human rights concerns expressed by Europe.

The talks will take place in three groups covering nuclear and technology issues, political and security concerns and trade.

Diplomats have said however that there will be no progress until the nuclear issue is resolved.

Khatami said his country opposed, as other nations do, "the gross misuse of this (nuclear) technology, which is (the development of) fearsome atomic weapons."

But he said that even oil-rich Iran needs peaceful nuclear technology.

Oil is an important resource and Iran must protect what it has "for our future generations," he said.

Khatami also said that "many European and Asian nations" are worried about the negative environmental effects of using oil "and therefore we must seek alternatives."

Iran "does not want anything other than what law and the international community agree to," Khatami said.

He insisted that Iran has "a national right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy" and worked closely on this with the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Iran claims this right under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which it has signed.

The Vienna-based IAEA has been investigating Iran for two years on US charges that Tehran is secretely developing nuclear weapons but IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has said "the jury is still out" on whether this is true.

Khatami said Iran felt that the IAEA has already confirmed that Iran has not "planned anything or done anything" that shows it is diverting nuclear material for military purposes.

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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