Iran, EU reach deal on nuclear issue

Posted in Iran | 08-Nov-04 | Source: (Pakistan)

TEHRAN, Nov 7: Iran and the European Union's three big powers have reached a tentative deal that could see Tehran avert UN Security Council sanctions over its disputed nuclear programme, Iranian and EU officials said on Sunday.

The agreement, hammered out during two days of talks in Paris ending late on Saturday, just awaits the go-ahead from Iran's leadership, EU diplomatic sources told Reuters.

Under the deal Iran would freeze all nuclear fuel enrichment and reprocessing activities until it has reached a final agreement with the EU over a package of economic, technological and security incentives in return for abandoning potentially weapons-related nuclear activities, the diplomats said.

"The time frame (of the enrichment suspension) will be given by the pace of reaching overall agreement," an EU diplomat said.

A deal with the EU trio of Britain, Germany and France is Iran's best hope of avoiding a showdown with the United States in the UN Security Council.

Washington wants Iran's case sent to the Security Council but agreed last month to give the EU trio a final opportunity to negotiate a solution with Iran, which says its nuclear plants will only be used for a civilian atomic energy programme.

The EU trio told Iran it must freeze uranium enrichment - a process used to purify uranium into nuclear reactor fuel or to make bomb-grade material - before the Nov 25 board meeting of the UN's atomic watchdog or face the Security Council.

"Negotiations were very hard and complicated but we reached a preliminary agreement on an expertise level," said Hossein Mousavian, head of Iran's delegation in Paris. "It is a framework that contains the viewpoints of all sides."

NO TIME LIMIT: "All four delegations are supposed to go to their capitals and if the capitals agree with the agreement, it will be officially announced in the next few days," he told state television.

Mousavian said Iran had agreed to a voluntary suspension of enrichment whose duration would be set by Tehran. He had previously said it would agree to suspend enrichment for six months at most.

But EU diplomats said the wording would be fudged so that no precise time limit is placed on the suspension. Instead it would last until negotiations conclude on a follow-up deal over a package of EU incentives including help with a peaceful nuclear energy programme and the resumption of stalled trade talks.

To receive those incentives Iran would have to agree to scrap its nuclear fuel cycle activities for good - something it has repeatedly said it will never do.

Publicly EU officials would only say that the two sides were edging closer to a deal.-Reuters