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Iran to Continue Freeze on Uranium Enrichment for Now


Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, left, and Iran's top nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani, right, attend press briefing after nuclear talks between three EU countries and Iran
Teheran has said it will continue a freeze on its uranium enrichment program, pending detailed proposals from its three European negotiating partners. crisis talks between the foreign ministers of three European countries and Iranian negotiators have succeeded in averting a breakdown in negotiations.

British Foreign Minister Jack Straw called the meeting difficult and complex. But, he said he believed some success, even if temporary, was achieved.

At the end of the meeting, Mr. Straw told journalists that the two sides had had a detailed discussion within the framework of the Paris agreement which was negotiated last November.

"The European side said that it would make detailed proposals to Iran by the end of July, beginning of August as outlined and discussed today and earlier by our officials in the context of the Paris agreement remaining in force," he said. "…Iran for its part reaffirmed its commitment to not seeking nuclear weapons."

The Paris agreement obliges Teheran to suspend its uranium conversion and enrichment activities. Iran's chief negotiator, Hassan Rowhani, put a positive spin on the negotiations and said he hoped they would lead to an end of the dispute between his country and the West.

"We believe that following on what was discussed today, we could come to a final agreement, we can reach a final objective within a relatively short time…but, our response to the proposal that has been put forward by the EU three today, we will have to wait to take the discussion in its entirety to Teheran," he said.

The ministerial meeting, was called after Teheran threatened last week that it was planning to resume its uranium reprocessing activities, a process that could lead to the development of nuclear weapons.

Iran claims its program is peaceful and aimed at generating electricity. The European Union warned that it would back Washington's call for U.N. sanctions if the Iranians did not end their nuclear ambitions.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said the differences between the two sides remain, but a crisis has been averted.

"It is not easy to bridge the gap," said Mr. Fischer. "But, it is quite clear for us that as long as all commitments which are part of the Paris agreement, if all these commitments exist, the process will continue and we will make our proposal at the end of July, the beginning of August and then we will see."

The European foreign ministers reaffirmed their basic position that Iran must not develop a nuclear weapons program. But, they said they believe they could come up with proposals within the framework of the Paris agreement which could guarantee that Iran's nuclear program would be for civilian purposes only.