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. Failed Iran-EU nuclear talks could get Russian to back hardline
VIENNA (AFP) Dec 14, 2005
European and Western diplomats fear that next week's planned nuclear meeting with Iran is all but futile but could help in getting Russia to back a hardline against Iran's atomic ambitions.

The European Union and Iran are planning to meet next Wednesday in Vienna but diplomats told AFP there is little hope of progress in getting Tehran to abandon nuclear fuel work that raises concerns it seeks to make nuclear weapons.

"I fear that we'll just be going through the motions when we meet with the Iranians," said a diplomat from one of the "EU-3" states negotiating with Iran -- Britain, Germany and France.

"The real diplomatic work at the moment is trying to bring the Russians on board so we can take this to the Security Council," said the diplomat, who requested anonymity due to the highly sensitive nature of the issue.

The Vienna-based UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has found Iran in non-compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) for almost two decades of hidden nuclear activities, a finding that requires eventual referral to the Security Council, which can impose sanctions.

But the IAEA in November put off taking Iran to the Council after the EU-3 agreed to give more time for new Russian diplomacy to work.

Moscow, which is building Iran's first nuclear power reactor, has proposed allowing the Islamic Republic to conduct uranium enrichment in Russia rather than on Iranian soil so that Tehran does not obtain the nuclear technology crucial to making atom bombs.

Iran however insists its nuclear program is a peaceful effort to generate electricity and that it therefore has the right to enrich uranium on its territory.

Enrichment makes what can be fuel for nuclear power reactors but also the raw material for atom bombs.

The Iranian refusal on the nuclear front comes as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has launched a series of verbal attacks against Israel, calling for it to be wiped off the map.

A second EU diplomat said the EU-3 wanted to keep Iran's nuclear and political stance "separate" for next week's talks, which are about re-starting formal negotiations that broke off in August when Iran resumed uranium conversion, which makes the feedstock gas for enrichment.

"It serves no good purpose if one went overboard with reaction and linked things," the diplomat said.

The diplomat added that the Europeans in any case wanted to take diplomacy to the bitter end, at which point Russia might be convinced that harder measures such as Security Council action is necessary.

A third diplomat said next week's talks would "be a chance for both sides to put their cards on the table" and for the Europeans to "make a final plea to the Iranians before going to the Security Council."

The diplomat said the meeting would be followed by a "period of reflection," during which the West would undoubtedly lobby with Russia.

Russia, which has a veto on the Security Council, backs Iran's right to civilian nuclear technology and says the issue should remain with the IAEA.

A Western diplomat said the United States, which backs the EU's diplomatic initiative, was hoping that "if Russia's efforts are rejected by Iran, then Russia will recognize that only the additional pressure of the Security Council might compel Iran to take the necessary steps" to comply with the international community's nuclear demands.

All rights reserved. 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.

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