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Monday, October 25, 2004

Yahoo! News - Iran rejects European demands over nuclear standoff

TEHRAN (AFP) - Iran rejected European demands that it halt all uranium enrichment activities and described a proposal aimed at ending Tehran's nuclear standoff with the international community as 'unbalanced.'

'The European proposal is their preliminary proposition and is not definitive but it is unbalanced,' foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said.

Iran is also refusing to suspend indefinitely work on enriching uranium, part of the nuclear fuel cycle, as called for in the deal offered to Tehran last week by the European Three of Britain, France and Germany, he added.

'In their proposal, the Europeans sought the suspension of enrichment until a comprehensive deal is reached. During the negotiations there is no question of an unlimited suspension,' he told reporters.

Nevertheless, Asefi said, the decision to engage in negotiations with the Europeans was the right one, adding: 'Today we are on the right path.'

The three European states presented Iran with a deal Thursday, aimed at avoiding possible UN sanctions. Under the deal Tehran would receive valuable nuclear technology if it indefinitely suspended all uranium enrichment activities.

The proposal was seen as a last chance for Iran before the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), decides on November 25 whether Iran is cooperating with the international community.

The United States wants the IAEA, which since February 2003 has been investigating US claims that Iran has a covert nuclear weapons programme, to refer Tehran to the UN Security Council, which could impose sanctions.

Tehran has long insisted it is seeking only to generate electricity and on its right to produce enriched uranium, which makes fuel for civilian reactors but which can also manufacture the explosive material for atomic bombs.