Iran Nuclear NewsEU, Iran Play Down Chances of Nuclear Breakthrough

EU, Iran Play Down Chances of Nuclear Breakthrough

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Reuters: European and Iranian officials began fresh talks on Tuesday on Western demands Tehran abandon plans to
make nuclear fuel because of fears it could be used for weapons, but neither side expected a breakthrough. “This is a meeting of experts and it is an ongoing process. You should not expect too much,” said one diplomat from a European country involved in the negotiations. Reuters

By Richard Waddington

GENEVA – European and Iranian officials began fresh talks on Tuesday on Western demands Tehran abandon plans to make nuclear fuel because of fears it could be used for weapons, but neither side expected a breakthrough.

“This is a meeting of experts and it is an ongoing process. You should not expect too much,” said one diplomat from a European country involved in the negotiations.

The three days of closed-door talks, which kicked off in the Iranian mission in Geneva, are the third encounter between Iran and France, Britain and Germany, the three European Union states taking the lead in the search for a diplomatic solution.

The four countries struck a deal in Paris last November under which Tehran, accused by the United States of seeking to become a nuclear power, agreed to suspend temporarily its nuclear fuel production program.

The negotiations aim to make the suspension permanent in return for political and economic concessions from Western countries in areas including trade and investment.

But Iran, which says it is frustrated that no clear economic inducements have yet emerged, insists it will not completely abandon its plans for uranium enrichment, a process for purifying uranium for use as fuel in power plants or weapons.

Iran, one of the world’s leading oil producers, says it needs atomic power to satisfy growing domestic demand for electricity. It also wants to become a power exporter.

“The Europeans know that cessation does not work,” an Iranian negotiator told Reuters at the weekend on condition of anonymity. “We have to reach a solution … that is acceptable to both sides, not just one side,” he added.

But the three European states, known as EU3, are equally adamant that the program must be dropped.

The United States, which has made veiled threats of military action against Iran, wants the United Nations to impose sanctions if Tehran does not abandon the enrichment program.

Washington has long been skeptical of the EU’s chances of negotiating a deal. However U.S. officials have toned down the rhetoric in recent days, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying a U.S. attack is “not on the agenda.”

Nevertheless, Washington continues to warn U.S. and European firms against doing business with Iran, which makes it difficult for the EU3 negotiators to come up with concrete offers of economic assistance, diplomats say.

While the Europeans say there is no deadline for a deal, Iran says it plans to review progress in mid-March after which it could decide to resume uranium enrichment.

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