Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Reuters AlertNet - U.S. seeking talks with Iran - Iran official

Reuters AlertNet - U.S. seeking talks with Iran - Iran official: "

U.S. seeking talks with Iran - Iran official
21 Dec 2004 11:27:28 GMT

Source: Reuters

TEHRAN, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Washington wants to hold direct talks with Tehran, with which it broke ties 24 years ago, to discuss a number of issues including the Islamic state's nuclear programme, a senior Iranian security official said on Tuesday.

Hossein Mousavian, one of Iran's chief negotiators on the nuclear issue, also said Iran had no objections to European Union efforts to involve Washington in negotiations aimed at dispelling international concerns about Iran's atomic ambitions.

EU officials privately acknowledge that their efforts to persuade Tehran to give up sensitive nuclear activities, such as uranium enrichment, have little chance of success without full U.S. support and involvement in the talks.

"The United States wants negotiations with Iran and definitely doesn't like having a mediator in between, even if the Europeans want to mediate," the official IRNA news agency quoted Mousavian as saying.

"But they are after comprehensive and conclusive talks which cover all disputed issues," he said.

U.S. and Iranian officials have held occasional talks in the past on specific issues such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

But such talks broke down last year when Washington accused Iran of providing shelter for al Qaeda operatives behind bomb attacks in Saudi Arabia.

"The Europeans have launched massive efforts to bring the United States into the nuclear negotiations," said Mousavian, who is secretary of the foreign policy committee on Iran's Supreme National Security Council.

"We have no objection to the Americans joining the Europeans in this process," he added.

Washington accuses Iran of trying to make nuclear weapons under the cover of a civil nuclear energy programme. Iran denies this.

"If the Americans want to hamper the Iran-EU cooperation, they can be effective and no one can deny it ... US interaction with Europe in this process is important from our point of view, nevertheless our partner is Europe not America," he added.

"I don't reject the possibility of nuclear talks between Iran and the United States, but I cannot predict the future," Mousavian said.


In Vienna, diplomats said Iran would continue preparing raw "yellowcake" uranium for enrichment, a process that can be used to make nuclear weapons, until the end of February, despite a recent pledge to freeze all such activity.

"The Iranians have decided to continue UF4 (uranium tetrafluoride) production until the end of February," a diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Two other diplomats in Vienna, where the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is based, confirmed this.

UF4 is the precursor to uranium hexafluoride (UF6), the gas that is fed into centrifuges which spin at supersonic speeds to purify it for use as fuel in civilian nuclear power plants or in atomic weapons. Iran recently pledged to freeze all activities linked to uranium enrichment as a confidence-building gesture."


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