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. Iran delays resuming nuclear activities for EU talks
TEHRAN (AFP) May 15, 2005
Iran is determined to resume its suspended nuclear activities but is postponing such a step for several days to allow a new round of talks with the European Union, Tehran's nuclear negotiator said Sunday.

"Iran's decision to resume (uranium conversion) activities at the Isfahan plant is definitive," Cyrus Nasseri, Iran's negotiator at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was quoted as saying by the IRNA news agency.

"We have to officially announce this by letter to the IAEA, but as the Europeans have demanded a new high-level meeting we have postponed for several days the announcement of the resumption" of conversion activities, he was quoted as saying by IRNA.

On Friday Iran began backing away from a threat to kick-start its suspended uranium conversion work, a move that would have violated an agreement with three European Union nations.

Britain, France and Germany had warned Tehran that any violation of their November 2004 agreement on suspending fuel cycle would have "consequences" for the country, and proposed new high-level talks.

Top Iranian nuclear official Hossein Moussavian said Saturday that a meeting with the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany could take place in Europe within the next 10 days.

Uranium conversion involves turning mined uranium "yellowcake" into uranium tetrafluoride (UF4) and then into uranium hexafluoride (UF6), a feed gas for centrifuges that carry out the highly sensitive enrichment process.

Iran says it wants to master the enrichment process to produce fuel for reactors, but the technology could also be diverted to make the explosive core of a bomb.

According to Nasseri, activities at Isfahan "cannot be suspended for much longer", arguing that conversion -- a process Iran sees at totally separate from enrichment -- does not present a proliferation risk.

He also hit back at British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who on Thursday gave an explicit warning to Tehran that it faced referral to the UN Security Council.

"The Europeans and more particularly Blair know that any threats that end up as a confrontation with Iran would be a strategic error," Nasseri said.

Iran, accused by the United States of seeking to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of an atomic energy drive, agreed to freeze its enrichment-related work in November 2004 and open talks with the so-called

The EU has offered Iran a package of incentives in return for "objective guarantees" it will not develop weapons.

But Iran has expressed frustration with the pace of the negotiations, which remain deadlocked over Iran's ambition to master the full nuclear fuel cycle and European demands that Iran abandon such work altogether.

The stand-off has worsened after the so-called EU-3 last month rejected an Iranian proposal to begin a phased resumption of enrichment. Iran complained the talks were being deliberately dragged out so as to keep the freeze in place.

Iran, as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), is standing by what it sees as a "right" to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. The country denies it wants the bomb.

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