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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

EU, Iran to meet on Wednesday on nuclear plans

BERLIN, Sept 27 (Reuters) - European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator are due to meet in Berlin on Wednesday for talks aimed at resolving the dispute over Iran's nuclear programme, Iran and the EU said.

Solana's office and the German foreign ministry said the meeting would be at around 1500 GMT. An official at the Iranian embassy in Berlin confirmed Larijani's imminent arrival.

Larijani was originally scheduled to meet Solana on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York last week but never showed up.

The United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China have offered Tehran economic and political incentives if it suspends uranium enrichment, which the West believes is part of a nuclear weapons programme.

Tehran says its nuclear enrichment activities are aimed solely at generating electricity and has refused to halt them.

The Washington Times reported earlier this week that Iran was close to a deal that would include a temporary, 90-day suspension of uranium enrichment and clear the way for negotiations on the details of the package.

Iran, however, dismissed this report as propaganda.

"As no new talks have taken place, such news is baseless, cannot be correct and is creating negative propaganda against Iran. And such an atmosphere will not help in resolving the problem," Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, told Reuters in Tehran.

However, he repeated that Iran "will continue seriously these talks (with Solana) in a logical way".


French officials said Larijani offered to consider a temporary enrichment suspension at a meeting with Solana two weeks ago. Western diplomats said details of this possible suspension would be discussed at Wednesday's meeting in Berlin.

If Iran does not suspend enrichment, the United States and the "EU3" -- France, Germany and Britain -- have agreed to ask the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on the Islamic republic. China and Russia oppose sanctions and would prefer to reopen negotiations with Iran.

"We will be watching this very important meeting closely," said a Western diplomat from one of the six countries that made the incentives offer to Iran in June.

Separately, a European diplomat confirmed a report from German magazine Der Spiegel, which said the EU3 would be willing to begin preliminary talks with Iran even if it has not suspended enrichment first.

The condition for starting such talks would be a positive result from Solana's meetings with Larijani -- in other words, an indication that it would suspend enrichment, he said.

Washington would not join in until a full suspension was in place. "The idea would be to get Iran back to the negotiating table," the diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The Security Council originally set an Aug. 31 deadline for Iran to halt enrichment but Tehran ignored the demand. The six powers have agreed to give Solana until early October to reach a deal with Tehran for starting negotiations.
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