Monday, November 07, 2005

Iran Asks Europeans To Reopen Discussions

Washington Post:

By Karl Vick

Washington Post Foreign Service

Monday, November 7, 2005; A14

Nuclear Talks Ended Three Months Ago

ISTANBUL, Nov. 6 -- Iran on Sunday formally asked three European powers to resume negotiations over its nuclear program, three months after the talks collapsed when Iran resumed work at a uranium enrichment plant.

The top Iranian negotiator, Ali Larijani, forwarded letters to the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Britain calling for "constructive and logical negotiations," the official IRNA news agency reported.

Iran has insisted that it plans to enrich uranium to fuel a peaceful nuclear energy program. The European powers and the Bush administration maintain that Iran has ambitions to develop nuclear weapons.

Several European countries and the United States sought to punish Iran when it announced in August that it was resuming some work to enrich uranium. They persuaded a majority of the countries on the governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions, but left open the question of when that would happen.

Since then, Iran has appeared to have lost some negotiating room. Early last month, the IAEA and its director, Mohamed ElBaradei, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, bolstering the status of the monitoring agency, which has repeatedly expressed skepticism about Iran's candor. And on Oct. 26, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad drew a torrent of international criticism when he said that Israel should be "wiped off the map." U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan subsequently postponed a visit to Tehran.

A spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry played down the situation Sunday during his regular news conference. "There is no crisis in this country that requires us to set up a crisis headquarters," Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters in response to a question. "Iran is currently in a good situation."

Asefi also confirmed that Iran had allowed IAEA inspectors to visit a military installation at Parchin, about 20 miles southeast of Tehran, to investigate allegations that the site was part of Iran's nuclear weapons research program. Inspectors first visited Parchin in January.

"We were not against cooperation with the IAEA inspectors from the very beginning," Asefi said, according to IRNA.

The European governments had no immediate response to the request to resume negotiations.


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