Nuke Talks Between Iran, EU End in Deadlock

Published April 29, 2005

| Associated Press

High-level European and Iranian talks aimed at convincing the Mideast nation to scrap its nuclear program ended in a deadlock Friday, officials said.

Closed-door sessions between Iran and senior British, French, German officials failed to resolve Western demands that Iran end efforts to enrich uranium (search), the key element in building nuclear weapons.

"No conclusions were reached, either positive or negative," a senior British Foreign Office official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. "Both sides have gone away and agreed to reflect on what was discussed. Talks will continue."

All parties will attend talks in New York on May 2 on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (search), where informal discussions are likely to continue in the sidelines.

Iranian officials who participated in Friday's talks could not immediately be reached for comment.

The clerical regime in Tehran (search) agreed in November to suspend its uranium enrichment activities temporarily, to build confidence in the international community and avoid referral to the U.N. Security Council.

But Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi (search) warned Thursday that if talks were not successful, "negotiations will collapse and we will have no choice but to restart the uranium enrichment program."

The three European nations, acting on behalf of the 25-nation European Union, are seeking guarantees that Iran will not use its nuclear program to make weapons, as Washington suspects.

Tehran insists the program — kept secret for two decades — is only for peaceful energy purposes and is reserving the right to restart uranium enrichment activities, which it froze in November.

Uranium enriched to low levels can be used as fuel in nuclear reactors to generate electricity, but further enrichment makes it suitable for a nuclear bomb.

The European countries want Tehran to abandon its enrichment activities permanently in exchange for economic aid, technical support and backing for Iran's efforts to join mainstream international organizations.

The United States last month agreed to support the EU diplomatic effort, ending its opposition to Iran's application for membership in the World Trade Organization and a partial lifting of the ban on sales of some spare parts for Iran's civilian aircraft. But at the same time, Washington signaled that Iran should quickly accept the offer — or face the threat of harsh United Nations Security Council sanctions.

Iranian officials insist their country has the right under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty — like other signatory nations — to enrich uranium for use in civilian power production.

Speaking during Friday prayers at Tehran University, Iran's powerful former president Hashemi Rafsanjani said his country will continue "prolonged and fruitless sessions" with the Europeans "with patience and firmness" to convince them that Iran doesn't want to make nuclear weapons.

He added that Iran wanted to have all kinds of nuclear technology for the good of the country, and it would do so "at whatever price it takes."

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