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. EU's Solana holds talks with Iran on nuclear row: spokesman
BRUSSELS, Aug 4 (AFP) Aug 04, 2008
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana on Monday spoke by phone with Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili on the standoff over Tehran's nuclear programme, a spokesman said.

"The conversation took place and Solana will report on it to the representatives of the group of six," powers involved in the talks -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- a Solana spokesman told AFP.

The spokesman gave no details on the conversation or how long the two men talked.

The United States had demanded that Iran meet a weekend deadline to respond to an international package of incentives aimed at persuading Tehran to freeze uranium enrichment amid warnings of new sanctions.

But an EU diplomat said on Friday: "If it's in 16 days instead of 14 it's not a problem. We are not obsessed with a date."

In Tehran earlier, new foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi told reporters that Iran would hold talks with Solana on Monday.

But Ghashghavi said: "Negotiations are an ongoing process and the question of deadline is media speculation."

At the last meeting between Jalili and Solana on July 19 in Geneva, Solana asked for a response in two weeks to the package drawn up by permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany.

Solana presented an offer of economic and trade incentives in mid-June, while Iran has put forward its own proposal, an all-embracing package of suggestions to resolve the problems of the world, including the nuclear issue.

The West fears Iran's atomic programme is a cover for making nuclear weapons, a charge vehemently denied by Tehran which says it needs nuclear power to produce electricity for a growing population.

Iran has so far been slapped by three sets of UN Security Council resolutions demanding that it halt uranium enrichment, a process which produces fuel for nuclear power plants and can also be used to make the fissile core of an atomic bomb.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Saturday that although Iran welcomes talks on its controversial nuclear programme it will not budge an inch on its rights.

"We will take part in any negotiations and talk about any issue which consolidates our nuclear rights," the Iranian presidency website quoted Ahmadinejad as telling staunch regional ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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