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. Iran sees improved prospects in nuclear talks
TEHRAN (AFP) Apr 10, 2005
Iran said on Sunday it saw improved prospects in difficult negotiations with European states over its nuclear activities but repeated its refusal to renounce uranium enrichment, a key sticking point.

"The atmosphere is better," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters.

"We hope to reach concrete results... on April 19," he said, referring to a meeting of experts from Europe and Iran ahead of a steering committee meeting on April 29 to "to find future solutions".

"The prospects are better than before and we hope we will be able to take a positive step" in the next meetings, Asefi said.

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.

Iran, which insists its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only, agreed in November to suspend enrichment activities as a goodwill gesture for a maximum of six months, 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.

Asefi insisted Iran would not give up uranium enrichment, saying that the current freeze was "temporary and for a short period."

In France last week, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said he expected significant headway at the next meeting of Iranian and European negotiators, saying the two sides were closer to a solution than before.

"I think we have made positive steps. Iran has proposed a global plan to settle this issue," he said.

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