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. Iran to step up uranium enrichment work, asks Europe to join
MOSCOW, April 19 (AFP) Apr 19, 2006
Iran plans to step up uranium enrichment work soon and has asked European countries to help in the effort, a senior French official told AFP Wednesday.

Speaking after a meeting here between Iranian officials and senior diplomats from Britain, France and Germany he said the Iranian officials had "indicated that Iran is preparing soon to launch two new centrifuge cascades" for enriching uranium.

The French official, who took part in a surprise meeting with the Iranian delegation in Moscow, spoke on condition that he not be named.

"They asked the political directors to take note of this situation and invited them to negotiate in taking part in this enrichment program," the official said, after the meeting between the Iranian officials and the diplomats from the "EU-3".

A cascade of basic "P1" centrifuges for uranium enrichment consists of 164 devices. Iran is believed to have one such cascade in operation at a nuclear facility in Natanz at present.

The French official said the European participants in the meeting responded to the invitation by saying there was "no question" of accepting any situation in Iran that ran contrary to resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Those resolutions have called on Iran to suspend all uranium enrichment activity.

The European political directors warned the Iranian officials that Tehran should freeze its sensitive nuclear work in line with UN requests.

"If it does not, then far from creating a situation allowing the resumption of discussions, Iran will face measures that will isolate it further," the official said.

The Iranian delegation was headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi and Javad Waidi, the deputy head of Iran's national security council and aide to Tehran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani.

The meeting between the Iranian officials and the EU-3 diplomats came at the end of two days of intensive discussions in Moscow among senior diplomats from the UN Security Council's five permanent members and the Group of Eight (G8) states on how to deal with the Iran nuclear impasse.

The EU-Iranian meeting in Moscow had not been expected but was agreed to quickly because "it seemed useful to listen to the Iranian side in order to evaluate the situation and hear its intentions with regard to the IAEA," the French official said.

He said Iran requested the meeting, which was hosted by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak.

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