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Iran says may set deadline for nuclear talks
Updated: 2005-03-14 21:39

TEHRAN - Iran, complaining of the slow pace of negotiations with the European Union over its nuclear program, said on Monday it may soon present the EU with a take-it-or-leave-it proposal to finalize the talks.

Iran insists its nuclear program is aimed at peaceful power generation, but the EU and United States fear the country may be seeking to develop atomic weapons.

The EU says Iran has a right to use nuclear power, but wants it to scrap plans to produce its own reactor fuel -- a process which would also give it the capability to make bomb-grade material.

Sirus Naseri, one of Iran's main negotiators with the EU, told state television that Tehran did not want a confrontation.

"But if they don't respond to what we believe is a logical stance, then they can choose their own path and we are prepared to deal with its consequences," he said.

"It's not like we have no time limits. It might not be long before we put on the table our final proposal and give them a deadline to either accept or reject it," Naseri added.

"We are not far away from this stage."

Naseri recognized that such a strategy meant the two sides "might be moving toward an agreement or toward a confrontation."

Iran has frozen sensitive nuclear fuel work like uranium enrichment while its talks with the EU continue.

But it has rejected as insignificant a joint U.S.-EU offer to allow it to start entry talks to the World Trade Organization and purchase previously embargoed civilian aircraft spare parts in return for giving up its nuclear fuel work for good.

Both Washington and the EU have warned Iran its case will be sent to the U.N. Security Council, which may impose economic sanctions, if it fails to allay the West's concerns.

Iran says it can provide "objective guarantees" that it will not use its nuclear technology to build bombs.

These guarantees are thought to include intrusive U.N. inspections of its nuclear facilities which would verify that uranium is not enriched to bomb-grade levels.

Technical talks between the EU and Iran are due to resume this week in Geneva ahead of a crucial meeting in Paris on March 22 or 23 to decide whether the negotiations will continue.

"What is clear to me is that we are walking on a knife's edge," Naseri said. "There is no guarantee that we will reach an agreement."

"What I can say for sure is that during the negotiations, and step-by-step we have witnessed more readiness for flexibility from the Europeans. However, this does not mean they have the ability to reach an agreement with us," he added.

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