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. Iran says open to new EU nuclear proposals, but will not resume freeze
TEHRAN (AFP) Aug 20, 2005
Iran is ready to examine any new European Union proposals aimed at resolving a row over the Islamic republic's nuclear ambitions but will not return to a full freeze of its activities, the foreign ministry said Saturday.

"It is natural that if they change their proposals, and in those new proposals they recognise the Islamic republic's rights, then we will look at it," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters.

But he added that "of course we are ready to negotiate unconditionally. We will not go back on the UCF (uranium conversion facility) at Isfahan but we are ready to negotiate on Natanz (a uranium enrichment plant) and some other issues."

Iran is at loggerheads with the international community after resuming uranium ore conversion, the precursor to the process of enrichment, at a facility near Isfahan earlier this month.

The step ended a nine-month freeze agreed during talks with Britain, France and Germany -- which have been trying to convince Iran to give up a technology that could also be directed to producing a bomb.

Work at Isfahan was resumed after Iran rejected an offer from the EU-3 of trade and technology incentives in return for a halt to atomic energy fuel cycle activities -- the focus of widespread fears that Iran could also acquire nuclear weapons.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has called on Iran to halt all nuclear fuel cycle work and the UN watchdog is to report September 3 on its compliance.

Asefi said a potential visit to Iran by IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei ahead of the report was "up to now not on the agenda".

Iran has refused to backtrack despite the risk of being referred to the UN Security Council, insisting it has the right to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

But although Iran has resumed uranium conversion -- a precursor to enrichment -- it has so far maintained its suspension of ultra-sensitive uranium enrichment at its Natanz facility.

On Friday, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran's Islamic regime was as "solid as a mountain" and could easily stand up to international pressure.

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