Iran's irrevocable stance dims hope for talks

Iran's insistence on enriching uranium on its own soil may undermine the basis for new talks on defusing Tehran's nuclear standoff with the West, diplomats and analysts said on Monday.

Iran said on Saturday that diplomacy would revive after a four-month freeze, but focus exclusively on "our right" to a full nuclear-fuel production cycle. The West fears that could yield an atomic bomb although Tehran says it would only power civilian reactors.

Talks have been tentatively scheduled for December 21, but Iranian leaders have dismissed in advance an EU-backed proposal for its uranium to be purified in Russia as "a failed idea".

Diplomats within the EU3 - Britain, France and Germany - said there might be little to discuss given advance agenda-setting by the Islamic republic.

"The fact the meeting should take place is a step forward. But what might come of it doesn't look promising based on what Iran has been saying. It doesn't look too hopeful," said one EU3 diplomat.

"We have to come up with a line as to the basis for talking. It's hard to see the point now. If we agreed to Iran's agenda, we'd have to abandon our whole historical approach to its dossier," another EU3 envoy told.

Since Tehran hid sensitive nuclear work from the U.N.'s non-proliferation watchdog agency for 18 years until 2003 and has publicly called for Israel's destruction, the West fears a nuclear-armed Iran would jeopardise international security.

Iran says its nuclear project aims solely to generate power for an energy-hungry economy that exports most of its oil to earn much needed hard currency.

Diplomacy between the EU3 and Iran on curbing Iran's nuclear aspirations collapsed in August when Iran resumed the first phase of the process, converting uranium ore.

In September the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy (IAEA) declared Iran in non-compliance with safeguard clauses of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Tehran signed.

The next envisaged discussions would only be "talks about talks" - an effort to relaunch previous negotiations, Reuters reports.


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