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Europe

Europeans Meet Iran Over Nuclear Row

Three European powers revived talks with Iran, holding lengthy discussions on the sidelines of a UN summit in New York to try to head off a showdown over Tehran's nuclear program.

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Our nuclear program is purely peaceful, says Iran

The ministers of Britain, France and Germany met with their Iranian counterpart and later conferred briefly with the Islamic Republic's new president in a diplomatic push brokered by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The talks came four days before the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was to meet in Vienna to discuss seeking possible UN action against Iran for resuming suspected nuclear weapons activities.

"We had a very thorough exchange of the different positions of the EU-3 and the new government of Iran," British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told reporters after the 80-minute session with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said the ministers had a "very frank discussion" in the first talks between Iran and the so-called EU-3 since a May 25 session in Geneva.

Meeting with new president

The ministers later sat down with Iran's new president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who planned to unveil what Tehran called new proposals to resolve the standoff, in a speech in New York Saturday.

"We're going to listen carefully to what the president has to say and we'll take it from there," Straw said afterwards.

Fischer bei der UN

Fischer and others trying to avert showdown

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who also attended the meeting with Ahmadinejad along with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, stressed there were no actual negotiations.

"We have only prepared the ground," Solana told reporters. "If it is possible to continue? .... It's not clear yet. We have to wait until the speech."

Possible referral to Security Council

Douste-Blazy insisted the EU-3 strategy had always been to avoid involving the Security Council, but added that the next step would depend on how far Ahmadinejad's speech goes in addressing the Europeans' concerns.

"If there's no movement, no change ... it's not at all impossible that there will be a referral to the Council," he said.

Der neue iranische Präsident Mahmud Ahmadinedschad Porträtfoto

Iran's President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to outline Iran plans Saturday

´Annan organized the meeting between Iran and the EU-3, which has been trying for nearly two years to wean Tehran off its suspected nuclear arms ambitions with economic and security incentives.

Russia opposed

On the margins of the summit, Russian President Vladimir also huddled with Ahmadinejad but a Russian official who was present for the first half of the hour-long meeting said the two leaders did not discuss Tehran's nuclear program.

Russia is building a nuclear power plant in Bushehr, Iran, a move which has sparked controversy as the United States and other Western countries accuse Iran of seeking to secretly build nuclear weapons.

Moscow has indicated it will not support hauling Iran before the UN Security Council over its suspected weapons-related nuclear program, as sought by the United States and its European allies.

Making his debut appearance on the international stage Wednesday, Ahmadinejad lashed out at Western "interventionism" but did not touch the thorny nuclear issue when he addressed the General Assembly.

Ahmadinejad has defended his country's nuclear program as purely peaceful.

The United States has been lobbying for world support to refer Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions but has signaled it may not have enough backing when the IAEA board convenes Monday.

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