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Iran calls for more nations to join nuclear talks

Europe and US dismiss tactic

TEHRAN -- Iran yesterday called for more countries to join three European nations in talks about its nuclear program, apparently hoping to bring in more sympathetic negotiators. The surprise call was part of Tehran's drive to win approval for what it says will be the peaceful use of nuclear power.

The talks involving France, Germany, and Britain suffered a blow earlier this month when Iran rejected the Europeans' central proposal -- economic incentives in return for permanently giving up uranium development. Tehran has resumed uranium conversion at its plant in the central city of Isfahan.

Iran's new top nuclear negotiator, hard-liner Ali Larijani, said yesterday that more nations should join the talks.

''There is a serious question in Iran that asks why nuclear negotiations should be limited to just three European countries," he said on state-run television.

Larijani didn't specify any nations, but said his country would welcome negotiations with all 35 members of the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog -- as well as members of the Non-Aligned Movement, a bloc of 116 mostly developing countries.

The United States, which accuses Iran of seeking to develop atomic weapons, dismissed the proposal as a ''typical tactic of the Iranian government designed to change the subject." In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that the current format, involving the three EU nations, was the correct one and that Iran ought ''to take the deal that is on the table."

Europe also responded coolly to Larijani's call.

Britain's Foreign Office said there was ''no basis for negotiation with Iran until they respond" to an IAEA resolution adopted earlier this month that calls on Tehran to suspend reprocessing activities.

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