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Page last updated at 14:12 GMT, Saturday, 14 June 2008 15:12 UK

Iran rules out halt to enrichment

Javier Solana (5 June 2008)
Mr Solana has offered Iran help with a peaceful nuclear programme

Tehran has warned it will reject any deal that demands it halt uranium enrichment - part of a new package of incentives from world powers.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana presented the offer of trade benefits in Tehran. Early reports suggest both sides have agreed to carry on talking.

The UN Security Council's permanent members and Germany have threatened new sanctions if Iran refuses the deal.

US President George W Bush said he was disappointed by Iran's stance.

"I'm disappointed that the leaders rejected this generous offer out of hand," he said after talks in Paris with President Nicolas Sarkozy.

"It's an indication to the Iranian people that their leadership is willing to isolate them further."

The West fears the enriched uranium could be used to make nuclear weapons.

Mr Sarkozy said a nuclear weapon in the hands of Iran would be "an unacceptable threat to world security".

Last chance

Mr Solana met Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on Saturday, as well as the country's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili.

An Iranian government spokesman said Iran would look at the offered package, but if it included suspension of uranium enrichment it was "not debatable".

However, initial reports - still to be officially confirmed - suggest that both sides have agreed to further talks on Iran's nuclear programme.

I don't expect miracles, but I think it's important for us to continue extending also a hand, therefore to make clear that we have a double track approach
Javier Solana
EU Foreign Policy Chief

Reuters news agency quoted an Iranian official as saying "a new diplomatic path" had been opened which would be "a basis for fresh nuclear talks".

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Tehran says that no-one is expecting any breakthroughs but both sides do seem to want to keep talking.

These talks probably represent the last chance of a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis for the foreseeable future, our correspondent says.

The deal presented by Mr Solana offers Iran help with a peaceful nuclear programme and the suspension of UN sanctions, if Iran agrees to suspend the enrichment of uranium.

The Western help would include the transfer of technology, a guarantee of fuel for nuclear power, and other trade and political benefits.

The package, agreed in May by the US, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany, is a revised and enhanced version of an offer turned down by Iran in 2006.

In the background is the threat of new sanctions, our correspondent says.

While the EU may suggest that a "grand bargain" is on offer, he adds, the package in fact does little to tackle the fundamental question of Iran's relations with the US - and without that, the nuclear issue will surely never be resolved.



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