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. Iran pledges to resume enrichment but not during talks
TEHRAN (AFP) Dec 10, 2005
Iran will resume uranium enrichment but not during talks with the European Union over its nuclear activities, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Gholam Reza Aghazedeh was quoted as saying Saturday.

"Technically and legally speaking I have no doubt that we will resume (uranium enrichment)," Aghazadeh said, cited by the official IRNA news agency. "Iran will not carry out any enrichment and gas injection during the talks," reportedly set for late December, he said.

Western diplomats in Vienna said Saturday the EU-3 (Germany, Britain and France) and Iran are planning to go ahead with talks over Iran's controversial nuclear activities on December 21.

A diplomat said the meeting is "to talk about talks," to see at a senior level if formal, possibly ministerial-level talks on winning guarantees that Iran will not make nuclear weapons can resume.

EU-Iran talks collapsed in August when Tehran ended its suspension of uranium conversion, the first step towards making enriched uranium which can be used as nuclear fuel or the explosive core of an atomic bomb.

Britain, France and Germany -- backed by the United States -- argue that the only guarantee Iran will not use its atomic energy drive as a means to acquire the bomb is for the country to totally abandon uranium enrichment activities.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani told AFP last week that Iran could soon resume making centrifuges and their parts and conducting "research". He argued such activities were perfectly legal and outside the scope of any future talks with the EU-3.

Centrifuges are spun at supersonic speed to enrich uranium gas -- which Iran is already producing in large quantities -- to make reactor fuel, but the enrichment process can be extended to make the core of a nuclear bomb.

Russia has proposed allowing Iran to conduct uranium enrichment in Russia, rather than Iran, so Tehran does not obtain the nuclear technology crucial to making atom bombs.

Iran refuses however to give up the right to enrichment on its territory and has invited other countries to take part and have a share in its nuclear program.

"Certain countries have signaled their agreement to cooperate in Natanz enrichment facility," Aghazadeh said, hoping the "negotiations with Europeans will facilitate this trend."

But in Vienna a Western diplomat said that "expectations are very low" concerning the result of the talks.

"The EU-3 (EU negotiators Britain, France and Germany) expects Iran to press for agreement on a pilot centrifuge plant. The EU-3 will make clear that is unacceptable and that time is about to run out on the Iranians", the diplomat said.

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