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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 October, 2003, 10:03 GMT 11:03 UK
Iran asks ministers to nuclear talks

By Jim Muir
BBC correspondent in Tehran

Satellite image of nuclear power reactor in Bushehr, Iran (Photo: DigitalGlobe)
Tehran denies it has a nuclear weapons programme

Iran has officially confirmed it has invited the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany to come to Tehran in the next few days to help resolve the crisis over its nuclear activities.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi revealed that Iran had opened negotiations some days ago with the three European countries.

These countries had written a letter to Iran several months ago offering to co-operate in the field of peaceful nuclear power production if Iran met all the requirements laid down by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The initiative involving the European countries is part of a broader process spearheaded by the IAEA.

Officials from the agency are currently in Tehran hoping to finalise an agreement with Iran on signing up to a tougher inspections regime for its nuclear facilities.

Assurances needed

Diplomats here say the three ministers would only come if Iran has clearly decided to announce its readiness to sign an additional protocol, which would enable tougher inspections of its nuclear sites and agreements to restrictions on its efforts to enrich uranium.

Negotiations with IAEA officials on signing the protocol have gone into a second day here in Tehran.

As for the Iranian enrichment issue, that is where the three ministers would come in, with assurances that - provided Iran complies with the IAEA - Europe will help it get the technology and expertise it needs to produce peaceful nuclear power.

The BBC's Jim Muir
"It will take tangible agreements and genuine decisions by the Iranians for these three ministers to come running to Tehran"

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