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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

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Big Powers Meeting On Iran

May 24, 2006 --Representatives from the United States, Russia, China, and the European Union trio of Germany, Great Britain, and France are meeting in London today for another round of talks on Iran's nuclear program.

The London meeting, involving the UN Security Council permanent members plus Germany, is once again addressing how to persuade Iran to halt its uranium-enrichment work.

The United States has been pushing for binding sanctions against Iran, if Tehran persists with its nuclear program. Washington accuses Iran of seeking to make nuclear bombs under the cover of a civilian program, a charge Iran denies.

Security Council Divided

The problem is that there is no agreement among the permanent Security Council members on possible sanctions against Iran and their enforcement.

Russia and China, which both hold vetoes on the council, have made clear they will not accept any threat to use force against Iran.

Britain, France, and Germany, representing the EU, are reportedly putting together a package for Tehran that may include the offer of a light-water reactor and an assured supply from abroad of fuel for civilian nuclear power plants, so Iran would not have to enrich uranium itself.

Iran has previously indicated it will not accept this.

'The Highest Peak Of Science'

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad today insisted on Iran's right to the full range of nuclear technology, telling a rally in the southwestern city of Khorramshahr, "Using nuclear energy is Iran's right."

In any case, Ahmadinejad claimed, "Iran possesses, from [start to finish], the nuclear fuel cycle for peaceful use."

The Iranian president cautioned what he described as Tehran's "enemies" against attacking his country, saying they would receive a "historic slap."

U.S.-Iran Talks Denied

U.S. President George W. Bush, in comments to reporters on May 23, said the United States was not seeking a military conflict and wanted a peaceful resolution to the impasse with Iran. But he said Tehran had so far shown no will to compromise.

"Obviously, we'd like to solve this issue peacefully and diplomatically, and the more the Iranians refuse to negotiate in good faith, the more countries are beginning to realize that we must continue to work together," Bush said.

Today's talks come amid reports that Iran has been seeking direct talks with the United States. "The Washington Post" reported today that Iran has used intermediaries -- among them UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and International Atomic Energy Agency chief Muhammad el-Baradei -- to deliver the request for a dialogue with the Bush administration.

The White House has previously dismissed calls for direct talks with Tehran on the nuclear issue.

(compiled from agency reports)

Copyright (c) 2006. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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