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Last-ditch EU-Iran talks held before IAEA meets

Written by: Staff

VIENNA, Mar 3 (Reuters) Top EU powers today met Iran's chief nuclear negotiator for a last stab at dialogue before a UN atomic watchdog meeting that may bring Security Council steps against Tehran over fears it secretly seeks atom bombs.

Yesterday's word of the talks in Vienna was a surprise, given Iran's defiance of international calls to rein in nuclear work.

But Iran seems keen to brake momentum towards Security Council action, and the European Union appears keen to show it will listen, if not bend, to Tehran before weighing sanctions.

No breakthrough seems on the cards, given that Tehran is speeding up uranium enrichment work geared to fuelling nuclear power plants or, potentially, weapons while going slow in talks on a Russian compromise proposal to defuse the crisis.

''We will listen to what (top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani) has to say but we have no new proposals,'' said a British Foreign Office spokesman.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a senior British official standing in for Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, and Larijani arrived early today morning for talks at the German ambassador's residence in the leafy Hietzing district of Vienna.

EU diplomats said Larijani would again be told Iran must return to a complete suspension of enrichment-related activity including conversions of uranium ore, the first step in the process, to win fresh negotiations on trade incentives.

The International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board of governors will convene on Monday to weigh a report by the IAEA chief saying essentially that Iran has ignored a February 4 call to re-suspend enrichment work to regain world trust.

The Vienna-based board reported Iran to the Council but on the condition the top world body on war and peace issues would not flex its muscle at least until after next week's session.

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