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'Final Chance' Iran-EU Nuclear Talks To Continue On Thursday

Ali Larijani shakes hands with Javier Solana at the current EU talks. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Staff Writers
Berlin (AFP) Sep 28, 2006
Top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana will on Thursday continue talks billed as a final chance for the Islamic republic to agree to a nuclear deal offered by world powers. The two men held five hours of discussions at a German government villa on Wednesday before breaking off for the night without making any comment at around 10:30 pm (2030 GMT).

"The discussions will continue tomorrow at 10:30 am (0830 GMT)," Solana's spokeswoman Cristina Gallach told AFP.

She gave no details of the first day of their talks.

As the two men had begun their talks after a handshake for the cameras, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad issued a defiant message that Iran would "not back down" on its nuclear rights in the face of pressure from the Western powers.

"They want to use suspension (of nuclear enrichment) for propaganda and tell the world that they forced Iran into accepting suspension," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

"They are making a mistake and the Iranian nation will not back down on its rights."

European diplomats have portrayed the talks as a last opportunity for Iran to agree to UN Security Council demands to suspend uranium enrichment activities and thus stave off the threat of United Nations sanctions.

The deal offered by the five permanent Security Council members plus Germany calls on Iran to accept a package of incentives in exchange for it halting enrichment.

The West fears that the enriched uranium could be used to produce nuclear arms, although Iran rejects claims it is trying to develop such weapons.

Key to the success of the talks is the question of whether Iran is prepared to suspend uranium enrichment for a limited period of time before or even during full negotiations with world powers.

The Washington Times reported on Tuesday that Iran was close to agreeing a secret deal that would see it suspend enrichment for 90 days in order for additional talks to take place with European nations.

However there was confusion over whether Iran is considering such a step.

Mohammad Saeedi, the deputy head of Iran's atomic agency, denied the reports.

"Since no negotiations have started this news cannot be correct and it is utterly baseless and without foundation," Saeedi told AFP by telephone from Berlin before the meeting.

"This kind of news will create a propaganda atmosphere and this false propaganda atmosphere will not help solve the issue," said Saeedi.

"Therefore -- as we have said before -- we are seriously and in a logical fashion, pursuing our negotiations."

European diplomats said Larijani made an offer at his last talks with Solana on September 9-10 in Vienna but several Iranian officials have denied any suspension is on the cards.

"Such issues will not be addressed in the next negotiations," Atomic Energy Organization deputy head Mohammad Saeedi told the Iranian student news agency ISNA on Tuesday.

Germany, which along with Britain and France has been negotiating with Iran over its nuclear programme, described the meeting as "part of our efforts to find a diplomatic solution".

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki struck an upbeat note.

"Since there is an atmosphere of understanding between Iran and Europe, we can be optimistic on the results of the meeting," he was quoted as saying by state television.

The US State Department spokesman meanwhile spoke of "hopeful" signs from Iran but warned sanctions were still on tap if diplomacy failed.

The repeated delays for the latest Larijani-Solana meeting appear to reflect intense diplomatic efforts to ensure the nuclear dossier is not referred to the Security Council.

Iran's uranium enrichment is particularly controversial as it can be used to make fuel for a nuclear power station but in its highly enriched form can also be employed to make the explosive core of a nuclear bomb.

Iran insists that its nuclear programme is solely for peaceful energy needs and vehemently rejects US allegations that it is seeking to manufacture nuclear weapons.

The negotiations were given a last chance after Washington, under pressure from Europe and China, backed down on its demand for immediate sanctions against Iran for failing to meet an August 31 UN deadline to freeze enrichment.

According to European diplomats, Western powers have set the start of October as a final deadline for Iran to give its definitive response to the Security Council offer.

earlier related report
Iran Won't Back Down On Nuclear Rights: Ahmadinejad
Tehran (AFP) Sep 27 - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday that Iran would "not back down" on its nuclear rights as Tehran's top nuclear negotiator was holding talks in Berlin with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

"They want to use suspension (of nuclear enrichment) for propaganda and tell the world that they forced Iran into accepting suspension," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

"They are making a mistake and the Iranian nation will not back down on its rights," Ahmadinejad said.

"In negotiations they tell us to suspend enrichment even for one day under the pretext of technical problem so that we will continue negotiating but our response to them is this: Nobody can give up the nation's rights and the Iranian nation will not back down on its rights."

Western nations are trying to convince Iran to halt sensitive uranium enrichment work in exchange for economic incentives, amid US suspicion that what Tehran calls a peaceful nuclear energy program is a cover for atomic weapons-building.

Ahmadinejad's comments came as Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani began crunch talks with the EU's foreign policy chief in a final chance for the Islamic republic to agree to a nuclear deal offered by world powers.

Earlier Wednesday, a top Iranian nuclear official denied reports that Tehran has agreed a suspension of uranium enrichment activities ahead of the talks.

"Since no negotiations have started this news cannot be correct and it is utterly baseless and without foundation," Mohammad Saeedi, the deputy head of Iran's atomic agency, told AFP by telephone from Berlin.

The Washington Times reported Tuesday that Iran was close to agreeing a secret deal that would have it suspend uranium enrichment for 90 days in order for additional talks to take place with European nations.

"This kind of news will create a propaganda atmosphere and this false propaganda atmosphere will not help solve the issue," said Saeedi.

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US Warns Against North Korea Nuclear Test
Washington (AFP) Sep 27, 2006
The United States warned Wednesday that any nuclear test by Stalinist foe North Korea would be viewed by world powers as a "very serious" escalation of the showdown over its weapons programs. Christopher Hill, US pointman on stalled six-party nuclear talks with Pyonyang, said the United States had been talking to China, Russia, South Korea and Japan about how to deter such a step.







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