November 30, 2005

Iran says nuclear talks set to resume

By Zerin Elci

ANKARA (Reuters) - Iran said on Wednesday talks on what it
says are civilian nuclear plans would begin within days with EU
states, but Germany said Tehran would first have to try and
dispel fears it really wanted to build the bomb.

"Preliminary negotiations will start within two weeks,"
Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on a visit to Turkey.
"The officials will negotiate the agenda and afterwards
negotiations will start on a ministerial level."

Talks between Iran and Britain, France and Germany -- the
so-called EU3 -- broke down in August after Tehran resumed
uranium processing, a precursor to uranium enrichment.

Germany's new foreign minister said talks had been agreed
in principle but would only resume if Tehran signaled it truly
wanted to lay to rest fears about its intentions.

"A few days ago the EU3 accepted the request of Iran to
resume negotiations. But the starting pistol for the resumption
of talks has not been shot yet," Frank-Walter Steinmeier told
parliament in Berlin.

He said the resumption of talks was "conditional on Iran
sending signals that it will ... accept a solution that allows
it to get peaceful nuclear energy but rules out the possibility
that Iran will have a closed fuel cycle."

Barring a "closed fuel cycle" means Iran will not be able
to enrich uranium, a technology that would let it make fuel for
power plants or for atomic weapons.

Iran says enrichment is a sovereign right and European
diplomats expressed little hope it would change its stance


Diplomats in EU capitals said the EU3 were not yet ready to
resume talks. One diplomat in Washington told Reuters they
might not take place until January.

A fresh round of talks would ease diplomatic pressure on
Iran, which has adopted a tougher stance on the nuclear issue
since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office in August.

Officials from the EU3 and Iran had planned to meet next
week in Vienna to discuss a Russian proposal under which Tehran
would continue less-sensitive uranium conversion work in Iran
but transfer the critical enrichment stage to Russia.

Mottaki, who said it was not yet clear where the talks
would be held, again denied Western claims Iran was developing
atomic weapons under cover of a civilian energy program.

However, Iran has acknowledged concealing its enrichment
programme from U.N. inspectors for nearly two decades.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog decided last week not to refer
Iran to the Security Council, to give Europe more time to talk
it into abandoning activities related to uranium enrichment.

The U.S. State Department backed the EU3 on Wednesday and
called for talks to resume as soon as possible.

"We have encouraged the Iranians to return at the earliest
possible time to the negotiating table in a serious and
constructive way with the EU3 as well as the Russians," a
spokesman said.

(Additional reporting by Mark Heinrich in Vienna, Dan
Williams in Jerusalem, Sue Pleming in Washington, Zerin Elci in
Ankara, Madeline Chambers in London and Lou Charbonneau in