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. EU offers Iran direct nuclear talks: diplomat
TEHRAN (AFP) Nov 27, 2005
The foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany have written to Iran's top national security official Ali Larijani with an offer of new direct talks on the Islamic republic's disputed nuclear programme, a diplomat said Sunday.

"The thrust of the letter from the three ministers given to Iran is to propose an exploratory meeting with Mr. Larijani in order to examine the possibility of a resumption in negotiations," the European diplomat, who asked not to be identified, told AFP.

"The Europeans do not question the rights of Iran (to have a nuclear programme), but want to have guarantees concerning its objectives," the diplomat said.

According to the semi-official Mehr news agency, the letter was handed to Javad Vaidi -- one of Iran's negotiating team -- in response to a letter from Larijani which called for a resumption of negotiations.

Two years of talks between Iran and the so-called EU-3 broke off in August when Tehran rejected an offer of trade and other incentives in exchange for its agreement to limit its nuclear activities.

Although not directly involved in negotiations, Washington suspects the Islamic republic is using an atomic energy drive as a cover for nuclear weapons development, a charge Iran has denied.

Iran also broke an agreement signed a year ago to suspend uranium enrichment-related work by resuming conversion -- a precursor to ultra-sensitive enrichment work.

EU diplomats have already cited December 6 as a possible date for a meeting between the two sides, although the time and venue appear not to have yet been finalised.

The International Atomic Energy Agency on Thursday put off taking Iran to the Security Council to give time for a new Russian diplomatic initiative.

Under the compromise plan, Russia would conduct uranium enrichment -- a process which can make both nuclear fuel and the explosive core of a weapon -- on Iran's behalf.

But there appears to be little space for compromise: on Sunday the foreign ministry said Iran reserved the right to restart ultra-sensitive uranium enrichment work for "research and development" purposes, insisting the sensitive nuclear activity was not up for negotiation.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi also said any talks would need to provide "concrete guarantees" that Iran can conduct fuel cycle work on its own soil -- a position at odds with the Russian compromise plan and the positions of the US and the EU.

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