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Iran Wants to Continue Nuclear Talks with EU

Iran's foreign minister says his country is ready to continue talks on its nuclear program with the European Union. The question of Iran's nuclear ambitions is threatening the outcome of a U.N. sponsored non-proliferation conference.

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi emerged from a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan Thursday saying Iran wants to continue talks on its uranium enrichment program.

The future of those talks with a European Union trio was thrown into doubt earlier this week when Mr. Kharrazi told a conference on the nuclear non-proliferation treaty that Iran would resume some activities that could be used in the development of nuclear weapons. Tehran had agreed to suspend those activities while the talks proceeded.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Mr. Kharrazi said Iran favors continuing the talks as long as there is a possibility of a positive outcome. He again maintained that the Iranian nuclear program would be monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"Our program is quite peaceful," he said. "It's under the supervision of IAEA as the watchdog. In fact, we are determined to continue with our peaceful activities, which is only for producing fuel needed for power plants. But in the same time we will continue negotiations with the European side, provided it would lead us somewhere tangible, in a matter of time framework."

In an earlier encounter with reporters Thursday, Mr. Kharrazi said the issue of whether Tehran would resume work related to uranium enrichment is, in his words, "still being decided."

In the meantime, diplomats say the dispute over Iran's nuclear intentions is threatening progress at a U.N. sponsored conference on ways to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

As the month-long conference nears the end of its first week, delegates still have not reached agreement on the agenda.

Western diplomats at the United Nations say Iran is resisting agenda language that would turn the spotlight on their nuclear program. The United States and others say the program includes activities that violate the NPT.

Conference president Sergio de Queiroz Duarte of Brazil says he is mildly optimistic the agenda deadlock could be resolved. He says failure could prevent the NPT conference from reaching its objective.

"If this does not happen, then of course I cannot predict the future," he said. "But I think it would be an unfortunate situation for the conference to confront, not to be able to define the ways in which it will fulfill its objective, which is to review the operation of the treaty."

U.S. expert on non-proliferation Joseph Cirincione told a congressional meeting last month that a failure of the NPT conference would be taken as a sign that the global non-proliferation regime is falling apart.

The 1970 treaty established a pact under which 183 nations renounced nuclear weapons. In return, the five declared nuclear powers, Britain, France, Russia, the United States and China promised eventually to eliminate their own weapons.

Many non-nuclear states at the conference have criticized the nuclear powers, saying they have fallen short of their promise to disarm. U.S. delegate Stephen Rademaker, in his address to the group, rejected that argument, noting that the United States has reduced its nuclear arsenal by more than 13,000 since 1988.