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Iran: Nuclear talks with EU 'closer to solution'
Iran's president said Tuesday talks with European countries about his country's nuclear program are "closer to a solution" and he predicted more progress in impending negotiations.
The United States suspects Iran of using its once-covert nuclear program to produce weapons and wants it shut down. Iran said its nuclear technology is only to produce electricity.
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, speaking at a UN conference in Paris, said he is "certain that today we are closer to a solution than we were a while back."
"We have taken some positive steps," he said, expressing hope for "even more significant progress" at further talks at the end of this month.
Khatami said Iran proposed "an overall plan" to resolve the nuclear issue and "the European reaction, particularly that of France, has been very open."
In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the world may never know precise details about nuclear efforts in Iran and North Korea but it must not "underreact" because of incomplete intelligence.
"There are no guarantees where intelligence is concerned," Rice said, "particularly when you're dealing with opaque and difficult societies like the ones that tend to want weapons of mass destruction undercover."
The interview was her first public remarks about last week's scathing report by a presidential commission studying U.S. spy agencies. The report blamed intelligence agencies for knowing "disturbingly little about the nuclear programs of many of the world's most dangerous actors."
In an interview published Tuesday in the French conservative newspaper Le Figaro, Khatami reiterated Iran's refusal to renounce the peaceful use of nuclear technology.
He said he takes seriously the possibility of a U.S. strike against Iranian nuclear facilities "but that appears to us to be unlikely. Such an attack would not only be bad for Iran but also for the attackers."
He said he hopes Americans "remain rational."
"But in the face of any form of irrationality, we are ready to defend ourselves," Khatami said.
Khatami was in Paris at the behest of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which was holding an international conference on promoting dialogue among peoples of the world.
He also met French President Jacques Chirac for talks on Iran's nuclear program and Lebanon. Syria has begun withdrawing its troops from Lebanon under pressure from the United Nations and the United States.
Khatami called the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States "terror in its most horrendous form." But alluding to Washington, he condemned pre-emptive war...by a power with all the resources in its hands that entitles itself to attack a nation, as we've seen in Iraq."
"War and terror are from the same roots," he said.
Both seek "goals that are restricted, limited" and both are "evil," he said.
Khatami, who went to Paris from Austria, was making what he said was his last foreign trip before leaving office when his second, four-year term ends. He was first elected in 1997.
Khatami, who is considered a moderate, has been hampered by hard-liners of the Islamic Republic in his ability to bring about reforms.