Iran said Sunday that a planned meeting later this month with the Britain, France and Germany on its disputed nuclear program will be decisive for the future of diplomacy over the crisis.
Iranian President Ahmadinejad has increased tensions with recent remarks
Foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi also reiterated that Iran would be sticking by its demand to conduct ultra-sensitive nuclear fuel work -- despite fears such activities could be diverted to make an atomic bomb.
"This meeting will be very serious. Everything depends on this meeting," Asefi said of the planned talks -- provisionally scheduled to take place in Vienna on December 21.
"We expect this meeting to pay attention to the facts and Iran's rights. We believe that we must be treated without discrimination. We don't want more than others and we won't settle for anything less," he said.
"The topic will be Iran's right to enrichment," he added.
EU-Iran talks collapsed in August when Tehran ended its suspension of uranium conversion, a first step towards enrichment, and the planned talks are aimed at exploring if an avenue for resuming negotiations is open.
But the two sides remain totally deadlocked over the core issue of Iran's effort to master the entire nuclear fuel cycle -- a process that culminates in the enrichment of uranium.
Iran argues peaceful nuclear energy a "right"
IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei has to balance the claims of Iran with proliferation fears.
As a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran argues that fuel cycle work for peaceful purposes is a "right". But the process of enriching uranium can be extended to make weapons material can be extended to military purposes.
The EU-3 -- backed by the United States -- want Iran to give up such work as an "objective guarantee" it will not acquire weapons. They want to push for a compromise under which Iran's enrichment work would be carried out in Russia, although this has already been rejected by Tehran.
Asefi said the only chance for the negotiations was if the European side compromises -- even though this appears to be out of the question.
Europeans hold the key, says Iran
The onus is on the likes of British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
"If the Europeans are rational and act according to NPT and international agreements, there is nothing to worry about and the meeting will have a good result," Asefi told reporters. "It all depends on the European side and whether they enter the talks and give us our rights," he said.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has said Iran is not complying with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which could lead to referral to the UN Security Council and possible sanctions.
Tensions heightened over Israel remarks
The IAEA last month put off such action after the EU-3 agreed to give time for Russian diplomacy to work. But the climate for talks has worsened after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad questioned the Holocaust and suggested Israel be relocated to Europe. In October he provoked a similar diplomatic storm after calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map."
Iran's nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani has also warned that his country could soon resume making centrifuges -- the devices used to enrich uranium -- and conducting "research."