Iran can reach deal with EU over nuclear problem

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani has said the resumption of talks with Europe could be "fruitful". But he told the BBC that Iran would not give up its determination to enrich uranium to produce nuclear fuel. He has written to the foreign ministers of the UK, France and Germany, offering to resume negotiations.

Meanwhile, the UN's atomic watchdog has suggested that an international nuclear fuel bank could be a way to persuade Iran to forsake uranium enrichment. Mr Larijani told the BBC that it would be a mistake for Europe to insist on Iran stopping uranium conversion once again, and risk greater achievements.

Negotiations were suspended in August after Iran rejected proposals by the EU Three - the UK, France and Germany - for resolving concerns over its nuclear programme. Mr Larijani said Iran's conversion programme was not important and had been exaggerated by the West.

He confirmed reports that Tehran planned to send a new batch of raw uranium to its conversion plant for processing this week. He said it was a normal step to send feed material to the plant. Washington has described the latest move as a step in the wrong direction.

Mr Larijani, who is considered a conservative, said he wanted to see Iran master peaceful nuclear technology and the resumption of uranium conversion was proof of that. "In the same way that Iran is negotiating with China, Russia and the non aligned countries, it can have fruitful negotiations with the Europeans as well," he said. The US suspects Iran of wanting to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran maintains its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes. Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said there were signs of growing Iranian co-operation. He pointed to a recent visit by IAEA inspectors to an explosives facility at Parchin, south-west of Tehran.

Washington is said to have given a positive response to Mr ElBaradei's suggestion for an internationally-backed nuclear fuel bank. The IAEA chief, who was attending the Carnegie International Non-Proliferation conference in Washington, said both the US and Russia indicated they were ready to offer some nuclear material to be part of the fuel bank.

His idea of a central bank of nuclear fuel from which a country like Iran could draw is an old one, says the BBC's diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus in Washington.

But - speaking with what our correspondent describes as the added authority derived from winning the Nobel Peace Prize - Mr ElBaradei said the fuel bank was an idea whose time had come, reports BBC news. I.L.

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