Iran turns its back on EU-3 for nuclear talks

21st February 2006, Comments 0 comments

TEHRAN, Feb 21, 2006 (AFP) - Iran on Tuesday announced it would no longer hold nuclear talks with the EU-3 of Britain, France and Germany, saying it attached greater weight to negotiations with Moscow on a Russian compromise plan.

TEHRAN, Feb 21, 2006 (AFP) - Iran on Tuesday announced it would no longer hold nuclear talks with the EU-3 of Britain, France and Germany, saying it attached greater weight to negotiations with Moscow on a Russian compromise plan.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki also vowed Iran would not go back on its resumption of small-scale uranium enrichment which has infuriated Western countries and led to Tehran facing the threat of UN Security Council action.

"Our contacts with the European Union will no longer be held with the EU-3, but in a unilateral manner with the different countries of the European Union," Mottaki told reporters following talks on Monday with EU officials in Brussels.

Iran had frozen uranium conversion and enrichment activities as a goodwill gesture during talks with the EU-3 but the already torturous negotiations collapsed when it resumed conversion and then small-scale enrichment.

Now it appears that Iran has decided to channel its diplomatic efforts elsewhere, finally closing the curtain on over two years of on-and-off talks with the EU's big three.

Mottaki's comments came as officials held talks in Moscow on a Russian proposal for Iran to enrich uranium on an industrial-scale in Russia — talks which have yet to bear fruit but are seen as a last chance for a solution.

While attaching little weight to negotiations with the European Union, Mottaki said Iran was putting the most emphasis on its discussions with Russia over Moscow's proposal.

"At the current time the European Union has said it is ready to accept an eventual agreement between Iran and Russia," he said. "This means that if there is a need to have official discussions with the European Union it will be to complete the Russian proposal."

The UN nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on February 4 voted to report Iran to the Security Council, but left a one-month window for diplomacy.

Iran's resumption of uranium enrichment activities intensified Western accusations that Iran is using its civilian nuclear energy programme as cover for weapons development. Tehran insists its atomic drive is peaceful.

However Mottaki made clear that there was no chance of Iran going back on its resumption of small-scale uranium enrichment at home for research purposes.

"At the moment we are at the beginning of the road for enrichment in the laboratory. Any new idea for negotiations need to go from this point," said Mottaki.

Enrichment is a process that involves feeding uranium gas through cascades of centrifuges. When purified to low levels, the result is reactor fuel, but the process can be extended to make the fissile core of a nuclear bomb.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on a visit to Japan that diplomacy can still work in resolving the Iranian nuclear standoff even though economic sanctions cannot be ruled out.

"Before we resort to military options, we must explore diplomatic possibilities. We must not lose our creativity and use various diplomatic options," he said.

"I do not believe economic sanctions are imminent. But we cannot completely rule out imposing sanctions," he said.

China, a key player and a permanent Security Council member, also urged Iran to end its uranium enrichment activities and focus on making progress in the talks with Russia, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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