Tue, Nov 09, 2004 - Page 6 News List

EU, Iran make initial deal


Hoping to avoid a UN showdown, Iran and the EU's three big powers reached a preliminary agreement over Tehran's nuclear program, Iran's chief negotiator said.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in Iran's conservative-dominated parliament pushed for a bill banning the production of nuclear weapons in a gesture aimed at building more international trust.

The preliminary agreement worked out in Paris with Britain, France and Germany could be finalized in the next few days, chief Iranian negotiator Hossein Mousavian told state-run Iranian television on Sunday from Paris, where talks wrapped up on Saturday.

If approved, the deal would be a major breakthrough after months of threats and negotiations and could spare Iran from being taken before the UN Security Council, where the US has warned it would seek to impose economic sanctions unless Tehran gives up all uranium enrichment activities, a technology that can produce nuclear fuel or atomic weapons.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, called the agreement "a step in the right direction."

Diplomats in Austria familiar with the outcome of the talks declined to discuss details.

"One or two points remain outstanding, and they hope to resolve those outstanding points by Wednesday," one diplomat said.

In proposals to Iran last month, Britain, Germany and France offered a trade deal and peaceful nuclear technology -- including a light-water research reactor -- if Iran pledged to indefinitely suspend uranium enrichment and related activities such as reprocessing uranium and building centrifuges used to enrich it.

"We had 22 hours of negotiations ... They were very difficult and complicated negotiations but we reached a preliminary agreement at the expert level," Mousavian said.

He said the four countries must now ask their governments to approve the accord.

The preliminary agreement appeared to mark a dramatic breakthrough, since Iranian officials have resisted indefinite or long-term sus-pension of nuclear enrichment, a process that Iran is permitted to pursue under the nuclear nonprolif-eration treaty, which Tehran has signed. While not being in breach of the treaty, Iran is under heavy international pressure to drop such plans as a good faith gesture.

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