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Iran EU Nuclear Talks To Start In Two Weeks

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki (R) is greeted by Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, (L) in front of the Turkish Foreign ministry residence in capital Ankara, 30 November 2005. Mottaki arrived in Turkey today for bilateral meetings with top politicians. AFP photo by Tarik Tinazay.

Ankara (AFP) Nov 30, 2005
Preliminary talks between Iran and the European Union over Tehran's nuclear programme will begin in mid-December, Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said in Ankara on Wednesday.

"The preliminary negotiations between Iran and the EU will start in two weeks," Mottaki told a press conference alongside Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul.

"Officials will have talks on the timetable for negotiations, after which the negotiations will begin at ministerial level," he said, not specifying where they would take place.

There would, however, be no immediate talks with Washington, he added.

"Negotiations with the United States are not on our agenda," Mottaki told reporters.

The so-called EU-3 of Britain, France and Germany are, along with the United States, at the forefront of international efforts linked to Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The EU and United States charge that Iran is using a drive toward atomic energy for electricity generation as a cover for developing nuclear weapons, something Tehran strongly denies.

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

Last week, the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency watchdog put off taking Iran to the UN Security Council after the EU-3 agreed to give more time for new Russian diplomacy to work.

related report
Washington suggests sanctions if Iran nuclear talks remain stalled Washington (AFP) Nov 30 - The United States suggested Wednesday that the international community impose economic or trade sanctions on Iran in case negotiations over Tehran's nuclear program fail to restart.

"It might be time to consider a different approach toward the new, more radical, more intolerant Iranian regime," said Nicholas Burns, undersecretary for political affairs at the Department of State.

"Through its diplomatic contacts and its trade and investment, the world does have leverage -- and that leverage should be used constructively now -- to convince the hard-liners in Tehran that there is a price for their misguided policies," Burns said at Johns Hopkins University in Washington.

Speaking to journalists after his talk, Burns, the number three official in the State Department, noted that Russia, China, Japan, India, Australia and the European Union were all concerned that Iran was seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

Asked if he was proposing that the EU impose sanctions if diplomatic talks with Iran fail, Burns said "That is up to the EU to decide. It is not up to the US."

"All of us around the world have to think about how we can influence that government. And it is certainly one way that many countries around the world can do that," he said.

Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said in Ankara earlier Wednesday that preliminary talks with the European Union over Tehran's nuclear programme will begin in mid-December.

"The preliminary negotiations between Iran and the EU will start in two weeks," Mottaki told a press conference.

However, diplomats in Vienna said the timing was not yet firm, noting that Iran wants the meeting to be at the ministerial level while negotiators from Britain, France and Germany want it only at the level of senior foreign ministry officials.

Negotiations over Iran's nuclear programme have been bogged down recently over Tehran's resumption of uranium enrichment operations.

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