Munich, Germany (AFP) Feb 11, 2007
Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said on Sunday the Islamic republic was prepared to return to negotiations to seek an agreement over its nuclear programme. "The political will of Iran is aimed at a negotiated settlement of the case. We don't want to aggravate the situation in the region," Larijani said in a speech to a high-level security conference here.
Larijani said he had sent a letter to Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), offering to work out all the outstanding points "within three weeks."
"I have written to Mr ElBaradei to say we are ready within three weeks to have the modality to solve all the outstanding issues with you," Larijani said.
Talks between Iran, three European nations and the IAEA collapsed last year, leading to limited UN sanctions being imposed on Tehran for its failure to stop enriching uranium.
The IAEA on Friday cut almost half its aid programmes to Iran as part of the UN sanctions, a step meant to send a strong message to Tehran.
Iran risks more extensive economic sanctions if it fails to comply with a UN Security Council deadline of February 21 to stop uranium enrichment.
Larijani told the Munich Conference on Security Policy that Iran was prepared to limit enrichment "to certain levels."
The United States accuses Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, a charge denied by Tehran which insists its atomic programme is for peaceful purposes.
Larijani said Iran's civilian nuclear activity was not a danger to Israel.
"We are posing no threat to Israel. We have no intention of aggression against any country," he said.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed on Sunday Iran would never surrender to the West's demand to stop enriching uranium, but said Iran was "ready to negotiate but under fair and even conditions."
On the sidelines of the Munich forum, Larijani had his first meeting with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana since talks broke down last September.
Solana said it had been "a good meeting", while Larijani described it as "constructive."
"I found the talks constructive at this level and they should be continued to come to some conclusions," Larijani told a news conference, although he did not reveal whether a date has been set for new talks.
"There is political will on both sides to have a negotiated settlement. "We're ready to address and accommodate the concerns of our interlocutor," he added.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the conference on Saturday the international community was determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.
Merkel said Iran must conform with the IAEA demands over uranium enrichment "without ifs and buts and without tricks."
"What we are talking about here is a very, very sensitive technology and so we need a high degree of transparency, which Iran has failed to provide, and if Iran does not do this it risks falling deeper into isolation," Merkel said.
earlier related report
Iranian leaders have repeatedly promised they would announce "good news" on the nuclear drive during the anniversary celebrations and expectations are building that Ahmadinejad will make a major announcement in his speech.
Along with mass rallies up and down the country, a full orchestra was due to play a newly composed "nuclear symphony" celebrating Iran's nuclear programme in Azadi square.
"This is the day when the American and the Israeli and British intelligence people get angry and worried. This year, with the glorious popular presence, our enemies will be inflamed and dismayed," supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Thursday.
Iranian officials have remained tight-lipped on the nature of the announcement, but it is expected to focus on the achievement of a new stage in Iran's uranium enrichment programme.
Uranium enrichment lies at the heart of the international dispute over Iran's nuclear programme, with the West fearing the process could be used to make nuclear weapons. Iran insists that it has every right to the atomic cycle.
The United States accuses Iran of seeking a nuclear weapon, a charge denied by Tehran which insists its atomic programme is peaceful in nature.
Diplomats close to the UN nuclear watchdog in Vienna have told AFP that Iran has installed at least two cascades of 164 centrifuges to enrich uranium at an underground plant beneath its nuclear facility in Natanz.
They said that the Islamic republic is in the next days expected to inject UF6 (uranium hexafluoride) gas into the centrifuges to produce enriched uranium.
Iranian officials have said that they want to install some 3,000 centrifuges at the massive underground facility in the next months, in what would be a major provocation for the West.
"We have already announced the planning and it goes on. Sometimes we are behind the schedule and sometimes we are going forward," Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said.
Although the United States has said it wants the nuclear standoff resolved through diplomacy, Washington has never ruled out military action to thwart Iran's atomic drive.
The UN Security Council imposed sanctions against Iran for its defiance in December and moves could start to intensify the measures if Iran fails to halt uranium enrichment by February 20.
If Iran does not comply with international demands, "it risks falling deeper into isolation," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a speech Saturday to the Munich Conference on Security Policy.
"We are all determined to prevent the threat of an Iran with a military nuclear programme," the chancellor said.
Diplomatic efforts to solve the crisis have moved nowhere over the past months, but Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani was due to hold talks with German and European officials at the Munich conference.
A European diplomat close to the IAEA said European states would be using informal contacts with Larijani in Munich to get Iran "to come up with some realistic, achievable proposals" on its nuclear programme.
Source: Agence France-Presse
Email This ArticleNorth Korea Nuclear Talks To Wrap Up Amid Energy Aid Row
Beijing (AFP) Feb 12, 2007
Six-nation talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear arms drive will wrap up on Monday after being held up by the communist state's excessive demands for energy aid, the top US negotiator said. The six nations "really concurred that tomorrow will be the last day," Christopher Hill told reporters in Beijing on Sunday. He was speaking at the end of the fourth day of the latest round of the talks, fuelled by North Korea's first ever nuclear test in October.
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