Reuters: Tehran is inching closer to a compromise with French, British and German diplomats seeking to persuade
it to give up its uranium enrichment programme, a senior
Iranian negotiator said on Friday. Reuters

By Jon Boyle

PARIS - Tehran is inching closer to a compromise with French, British and German diplomats seeking to persuade it to give up its uranium enrichment programme, a senior Iranian negotiator said on Friday.

Hossein Mousavian, head of the Iranian delegation, said that after seven hours of "very delicate, complicated talks" the two sides had now embarked on a fresh round at the French Foreign Ministry in central Paris.

"The two sides are trying to reach some compromise. Up to now, every party has shown some flexibility and I see the chance of a final compromise after some hours," he told reporters.

Iran is offering a six-month suspension of its enrichment programme, which Washington believes will be used to produce atomic weapons, diplomats close to the talks said.

But the European Union's "Big Three" powers -- who have so far made no public comment on the state of the Paris talks -- are pushing Iran to agree to an indefinite suspension, diplomats said.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot said at an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels Europe wanted full suspension of all uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing activities.

In return the EU would be prepared to "start digging up the carrots".

But Tehran has said uranium enrichment, a process of purifying uranium for use as fuel in atomic power plants or in weapons, is a sovereign right that it will never abandon.


LONG DAY EXPECTED

Sirus Naseri, one of the Iranian delegates, told Reuters by telephone he was "expecting a long day" as the two sides haggled over a draft deal covering political and economic issues ranging from trade relations to terrorism.

"It will take time. They (the talks) will not be easy because we are at the point of exchanging drafts," he said before the meeting. A European diplomat said it was possible the talks would spill over into Saturday.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the last word on all state matters, said Iran had no intention of producing atomic weapons.

"We are not even thinking about nuclear weapons. Our nuclear weapon is our young and devoted youth and our believing nation," he told worshippers at Friday prayers at Tehran University.

Shahin Gobadi, spokesman for Iranian exiles protesting against the meeting outside the French parliament, accused the EU of trying to buy off Tehran by offering to keep the France-based People's Mujahideen and National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) on its terrorism list.

"The listing was a dirty deal with the terrorist mullahs and has no legal or technical justification," said Gobadi, whose NCRI has been a key whistleblower for Iran's atomic sites.

Iran's Naseri said he hoped the two sides would reach a deal before a Nov. 25 meeting of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

If no deal is struck before then, the EU is expected to support Washington's demand for a referral to the U.N. Security Council and possible economic sanctions.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has encouraged Iran to reach a deal with the Europeans and has even offered to guarantee Iran's supply of nuclear fuel if it abandons its fuel production capabilities, diplomats said.