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. Iran warns Europe to heed proposal or face collapse of nuclear talks
TEHRAN (AFP) Apr 20, 2005
Iran warned on Wednesday that it would halt negotiations over its nuclear programme if Europe failed to heed its proposals on uranium enrichment -- but nevertheless said the talks were going well.

Chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani reiterated Iran's insistence that it would not halt enrichment, a process which makes fuel for nuclear reactors but can also be the explosive core of nuclear bombs.

His comments came as diplomats from Britain, France and Germany -- the EU-3 -- were holding more talks with their Iranian counterparts in Geneva, ahead of a more senior-level meeting in London on April 29.

"The Europeans should tell us whether these ideas can work as the basis for continued negotiations or not," Rowhani told the Financial Times of London, referring to Iran's proposal that would allow some uranium enrichment.

"If yes fine. If not, then the negotiations cannot continue," he said. "These ideas are the very last possible ideas that we could come up with as compromise options."

EU negotiators have been studying the suggestion, and there have been hints of a crack in their unity over this issue. But one European diplomat told AFP Tuesday that the EU-3 remained "rock-solid" on a halt to uranium enrichment.

The United States charges that Iran is secretly developing weapons but Tehran claims its nuclear programme is peaceful and has the right to make nuclear fuel under the provisions of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In Tehran, Rowhani repeated Iran's refusal to halt enrichment but was more upbeat about progress in the talks.

"For the moment, there is nothing to suggest they will not succeed, on the contrary," Rowhani told journalists after briefing a closed-door session of parliament about the negotiations.

"There is no question of discussing a halt to enrichment."

"While there is progress and we are hopeful of a rapid conclusion we will continue the talks but if we judge that the Europeans are trying to buy time, we will stop them."

The Financial Times noted that Britain, France and Germany would be struggling over the next 10 days to find a formula that would keep the talks going, without compromising on uranium enrichment.

It cited Western diplomats as saying that concessions to Tehran would undermine Washington's support for the talks.

Rowhani stopped short of threatening a resumption of uranium enrichment, which Iran agreed to suspend while the talks continued, but the newspaper said a complete breakdown in negotiations would probably end the suspension.

Such a development would also send the matter to the UN Security Council, where Iran could face sanctions -- a prospect that the Europeans would not relish, Rowhani suggested.

"For our dossier to be sent to the Security Council would be a great failure on the part of Europe, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and multilateralism as a whole," he told the Financial Times.

In a bid at a co-ordinated strategy with Europe, the United States dropped objections to Iran joining the World Trade Organisation last month and to the sale of aircraft spare parts to Tehran.

In return, Britain, France and Germany agreed to support the US bid to send Iran's case to the United Nations if Tehran resumed uranium enrichment.

Rowhani said the recent American steps were symbolic but cast doubt on the potential for a thaw in relations with Washington.

"The key is held in Washington itself. A country which expresses interest to hold talks at the same time cannot be working for regime change. So the US must clearly announce its strategy towards my country," he 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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