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Annan Makes No Breakthrough on Iran Visit
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United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's two-day visit to Iran ended without any breakthrough on its nuclear issue as Tehran insisted that suspension of uranium enrichment would not happen before talks.   

In a meeting with the UN chief Sunday morning, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reaffirmed to Annan that Iran was committed and prepared to hold negotiations.

But Ahmadinejad was firm in his resolve that Iran would not accept suspension of uranium enrichment before negotiations, Annan told a joint press conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

The UN chief said he had a better understanding of Iran's stance on the nuclear issue and would discuss it with key members of the Security Council.

Annan placed his hopes in moving forward on a planned meeting between EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani this week.

Mottaki said Iran's stance on its nuclear program was transparent enough and Annan had become familiar with it. The Iranian foreign minister added it was now the turn of world powers to consider Iran's response to their nuclear issue resolution package.

"If there is a need for any time for their consideration, we can provide them with it," Mottaki said.

Mottaki also said that UN Security Council Resolution 1696 was a "mistake" made under the pressure of the United States and its allies, and hence "a black mark registered in their records."

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi said earlier in the day that Iran hoped to reach a consensus over its nuclear issue after the meeting between Larijani and Solana.

"The situation would be clearer after the meeting and we hope to reach a consensus," Asefi told a press briefing.

Solana will hold talks with Larijani aimed at clarifying ambiguities in Iran's response to the incentive package offered by the United States, Russia, China and the so-called EU 3 (France, Germany and Britain.)

Asefi said the exact date and place of the meeting would be set "within the next few days."

The package includes both incentives aimed at persuading Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and possible sanctions if Iran does not comply.

Larijani delivered Tehran's written response to the package on Aug. 22 and urged the six nations to return to negotiations, saying Iran was ready to start "serious talks" over its nuclear program.  

The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1696 in late July, urging Tehran to suspend by Aug. 31 all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, or face prospect of sanctions.   

On Aug. 31, International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohammed ElBaradei presented a report to the Security Council, saying "Iran has continued enriching uranium despite a UN nuclear deadline for it to suspend or face possible sanctions."   

As the United States sought to press for sanctions on Iran after this refusal, the European Union, agreed on Saturday to give Iran two extra weeks to clarify ambiguities in its response to the six-nation package.   

Meanwhile, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's representative to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), warned Saturday that Iran would revise its policy of cooperating with the IAEA if sanctions were imposed over its nuclear program.   

"If other erroneous measures are committed and the UN Security Council decides on sanctions or punitive measures, there is no doubt that the Islamic Republic of Iran will revise its policy of cooperation and its engagements laid out in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)," he noted.   

The warning was echoed by Iranian lawmakers as the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission discussed on Sunday a draft bill on possible suspension of visits by IAEA inspectors to Iran's nuclear facilities.  

The Iranian members of parliament have repeatedly warned that Iran would withdraw from the IAEA, were it to be deprived of its 'inalienable rights.'

(Xinhua News Agency September 4, 2006)

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