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Iran Terms Small-scale Enrichment Offer as Positive
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Iran on Monday termed as positive but not desirable a recent UN nuclear watchdog's proposal of allowing it to conduct small-scale uranium enrichment work, the official IRNA news agency reported.

"The International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) proposal on small-scale enrichment inside Iran is a positive step towards resolving the nuclear issue but is not what Iran desires," government spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham was quoted as saying.

It was reported that Mohamed ElBaradei, IAEA Director General, has recently expressed worry that it would be hard to reach a compromise on Iran's nuclear issue unless the Islamic Republic is allowed to conduct small-scale enrichment work.

According to ElBaradei, a deal could be made by permitting Iran to operate a pilot enrichment plant for small-scale work in exchange for Tehran's withdrawal from industrial-scale enrichment. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on Saturday hailed ElBaradei's suggestion as "a step forward", saying that Iran welcomed friends' positive view toward the issue of enrichment inside Iran.

Elham on Monday also re-stressed that Iran's legal right to get access to peaceful nuclear energy was undeniable based on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and other international treaties which Iran signed.

"To renounce this right at any level would cross the red line. We are not authorized to stop at this point but should take all measures to defend our rights," the spokesman said.

Elham's comments came as Iranian and Russian negotiators kicked off a key round of talks in Moscow over a Russian proposal to establish a joint venture in Russia to enrich uranium for Iran.

Mottaki arrived in Brussels, Belgium, early Monday for talks with European diplomats including Javier Solana, the European Union (EU) foreign policy chief.

However, Mottaki and other negotiators rejected a recent call of Russia to re-suspend the resumed nuclear activities.

The nuclear negotiations between Iran and the EU were paralyzed after Tehran defiantly resumed nuclear research work on Jan. 10 and sent ambiguous messages on the Russian proposal.

The situation further escalated due to Iran's recent resumption of small-scale uranium enrichment work and prohibition of IAEA's snap inspections, a retaliative measure against IAEA's resolution on Feb. 4 to report Iran's nuclear case to the UN Security Council.

The IAEA resolution also urges the Security Council not to take actions on Iran before its meeting on March 6, referring to economic sanctions.

(Xinhua News Agency February 21, 2006)

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