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. Iran could see change in nuclear policy: Rowhani
TEHRAN (AFP) Jul 13, 2005
Iran could change its nuclear policy, particularly its commitment to a freeze of ultra-sensitive uranium enrichment activities, top negotiator Hassan Rowhani was quoted as saying Wednesday.

"I think that nobody is hostile to the continuation of negotiations but differences are possible on the question of the suspension, and it is possible that these differences are implemented," Rowhani told the Shargh newspaper.

Rowhani's comments were published the day after hardline president-elect Mahmood Ahmadinejad vowed "new measures" in the Islamic republic's approach to the nuclear crisis as well as its foreign policy.

Ahmadinejad takes over from reformist President Mohammad Khatami on August 3, a sensitive juncture for Iran in its negotiations with Britain, France and Germany.

The three European powers have promised to come up with an outline for a long-term accord by the end of this month, and their proposal could make or break a lengthy diplomatic process aimed at easing widespread fears Iran is seeking nuclear weapons technology.

While Iran agreed to suspend uranium enrichment in October 2003 and widen the freeze last year, officials have voiced their determination to resume the dual-use activity -- the focus of suspicions the clerical regime wants to acquire the bomb.

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). However, it has a track record of covering up its activities and shopping illegally on the international black market.

Iranian negotiators also said in comments published Tuesday that the country would soon resume enrichment and will reject any EU proposal that does not recognise the Islamic republic's right to do so.

Rowhani asserted that in this respect, he was "sure that our policy will not change". There had been hopes that Ahmadinejad's defeated rival, the more moderate conservative Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, could have been more open to a deal with the Europeans and eventually even the United States.

Nevertheless, Rowhani he was "also certain that all of the country's leadership are in favour of continuing the negotiations with the Europeans," adding the same applied to Ahmadinejad.

Rowhani's own future has been the subject of intense speculation amid reports and denial he has resigned, but he told Shargh that "with the end of the mandate of the current government, my tenure will come to an end just as is the case for other ministers."

He denied reports that he had quit as secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council -- a top inter-ministerial and military decision-making body -- but added "it is not clear who will be in charge of the dossier in the future".

One possible replacement cited in the press is Ali Larijani, an advisor to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and a former culture minister and state television boss.

Larijani, a hardliner, made his own bid for the presidency but was knocked out of the race in the first round of voting on June 17.

But Rowhani emphasised that Iran could not afford to abandon the negotiations with the EU-3.

"The nuclear issue is undoubtedly the most important question in our foreign policy," he said.

"We are obliged to get along with Russia, Japan, China and the industrialised and powerful nations. We have no other choice. Alarming countries would be to close the door on agreements and prevent progress."

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