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EU-Iran nuclear talks off - Iranian official

Written by: Staff

BRUSSELS, July 5 (Reuters) Iran said today crucial talks between the European Union and Iran on incentives aimed at ending a nuclear stand-off have been postponed for a week, giving no immediate official reason for the delay.

''The meeting has changed to the next week. They (the Iranian delegation) will not come (to Brussels) today,'' a senior Iranian nuclear official who requested anonymity told Reuters.

Iran's Fars news agency reported that Larijani had cancelled his trip to Belgium ''for some reasons'' and that the meeting could be rescheduled in coming days.

The office of EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, whose had been due to meet Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, could not immediately confirm when the meeting, set by Western powers as a deadline for Iran's response, would take place.

Solana spoke by telephone with Larijani on Wednesday, an EU official said.

Iran had said it needs more time to reply to the incentives offer, adding to longstanding Western suspicions that it has been playing for time in the stand-off.

But an analyst in Tehran said a visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on the same day by the leader of the outlawed National Council of Resistance of Iran, regarded by the government as a terrorist group, appeared to be the reason.

Maryam Rajavi, who is based in France and whose organisation is the political wing of the outlawed People's Mujahideen armed group, was invited to the legislature by a cross-party group of EU lawmakers who call themselves ''Friends of a Free Iran''.

''One might think that this didn't please the Iranians, but it could also be a welcome pretext for the Iranians,'' the analyst said, who asked not to be identified.

Diplomats said divisions in the UN Security Council over what action to take on Iran meant there had been little chance of responding either at the Brussels meeting or before a July 15 summit of G8 leading industrialised nations in Russia.

The United States has accused Iran of having a secret programme to build nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge, saying its nuclear programme is solely for power generation.

Iran says it sees ambiguities in the June 6 offer by Germany and the five permanent, veto-wielding UN Security Council members -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China.

The major powers offered a state-of-the-art nuclear reactor with a guaranteed fuel supply, economic benefits and support for the idea of a regional security framework if Iran halted uranium enrichment.

Diplomats believe that as Russia and China were unlikely to back any UN sanctions against Iran at this stage, the West was in no position to set deadlines.

Reuters CH GC1513

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