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. EU, Iran to meet in December on nuclear dispute
VIENNA (AFP) Nov 22, 2005
Britain, France, Germany and Russia have set a provisional date in December to meet with Iran in a move aimed at breaking the deadlock over Tehran's disputed nuclear program, diplomats told AFP Tuesday.

"The date is December 6. There is no agreement yet on the venue," said a European diplomat, who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the issue.

New talks would be the next step after the United States and the so-called EU-3 -- Britain, France and Germany -- put off calling this week on the UN nuclear watchdog to send the Iranian case to the UN Security Council, in order to give Russia time to get Tehran to agree to a compromise.

The diplomat said the idea would be to "talk about (resuming) talks" between Iran and the trio of European Union negotiators on guaranteeing Tehran will not make nuclear weapons.

The talks broke off in August when Iran resumed uranium conversion it had suspended nine months earlier.

Conversion turns uranium ore into the gas that is the feedstock for making enriched uranium, which can be fuel for nuclear power reactors or the raw material for atom bombs.

The West fears that Iran is using a civilian nuclear power program to hide covert development of atomic weapons. Tehran says its program is a peaceful project to generate electricity.

The European diplomat said it was not yet clear if the EU-3, Russia and Iran would all sit down together on December 6 at the level of political directors, or if "they would meet in mixed forms."

There would be "no strings attached," the diplomat went on, although Iran should be "prepared to discuss seriously" a Russian compromise proposal under which Tehran's uranium enrichment -- which makes what can be nuclear reactor fuel or bomb material -- would be carried out in Russia.

Possible venues for the meeting include Moscow, Vienna and Geneva.

The diplomat said that while the logistics for the meeting were not set, it almost certainly would take place unless Iran escalated the crisis, such as by moving ahead with actual enrichment.

In any case, referring Iran to the Security Council, which could impose sanctions, "will not happen at this week's meeting" in Vienna of the watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a Western diplomat said Monday.

The body's 35-nation board of governors meets in Vienna Thursday to review progress after calling on Iran in September to cease all nuclear fuel work, to cooperate with an IAEA investigation and to return to talks with the European Union.

The IAEA board had earlier found Iran in non-compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a ruling that opens the way to bringing the matter to the Security Council for possible sanctions.

Russia, which is building Iran's first nuclear reactor, and China, which also has strong economic ties with Tehran, both support its right to civilian nuclear technology and oppose any referral to the world body.

"Everyone wants to give the Russian proposal a chance to fly. It's still in the air," a diplomat said.

The Western diplomat said the United States feels "it is worth taking a few more months to work on Russia and China to bring them on board" to support UN referral if diplomacy fails.

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