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. Iran not very optimistic ahead of 'difficult' nuclear talks
TEHRAN (AFP) Jul 05, 2005
The head of Iran's atomic programme said Tuesday he was "not very optimistic" ahead of key nuclear talks with the European Union later this month and predicted they would be "difficult" in the months ahead.

Gholamreza Aghazadeh told the student news agency ISNA that Britain, France and Germany had yet to come to terms with the election of hardliner Mahmood Ahmadinejad as president and may have calculated on having easier negotiations.

"The Europeans were waiting for the election of the new president to present their proposals. Taking into account the personality of the new president, I think the negotiations will be more difficult," he was quoted as saying.

The three countries are trying to convince Iran to completely abandon its enrichment programme -- which could be diverted to military purposes -- and have promised to come up with the outlines of a long-term accord by the end of July.

Moderate conservative cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani -- seen as being more open to such an agreement in return for a package of incentives -- had been expected to win the election but was thrashed by Ahmadinejad.

"I am not very optimistic about the European proposal. The Iranian nuclear case is very important and I think the capacity of the Europeans to solve it is very weak," Aghazadeh said.

Iran claims it only wants to make atomic fuel for energy purposes and argues it has a right to do so as a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

According to European diplomats close to the talks, the forthcoming EU-3 proposal will not satisfy Iranian demands to resume fuel cycle work -- currently frozen for the talks -- and a fresh war of words can be expected.

If Iran does choose to resume enrichment, diplomats say it is all but certain of being hauled before the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions.

"The negotiating process will be complicated and we are entering into a sensitive period," Aghazadeh said. "The Europeans have to understand that we are not worried about our case going to the Security Council."

There was also renewed speculation that Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rowhani, had quit in the wake of Ahmadinejad's victory. Rowhani is seen as being close to Rafsanjani.

A close aide told AFP the rumours were untrue, although a senior MP added to the sense that something was amiss by touching on the topic of an eventual successor to Rowhani, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council.

"If Mr. Rowhani has decided to leave his functions, his successor and the future foreign minister must be able to obtain the trust of the international community," said Alaeddin Borujerdi.

Borujerdi is a former deputy foreign minister and currently serves as the head of the hardline Iranian parliament's foreign policy commission. He has been tipped as Ahmadinejad's possible foreign minister to replace Kamal Kharazi.

Meanwhile, Aghazadeh also told ISNA that Iran had also begun "researching nuclear fusion" and hoped to see "results in the coming years" -- even though he said the United States was preventing the import of technology from Russia.

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