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Europe to End Talks If Iran Resumes Nuclear Programs<P>By Elaine Sciolino THE NEW YORK TIMES <P>PARIS <P>

Europe to End Talks If Iran Resumes Nuclear Programs

By Elaine Sciolino


France, Britain and Germany formally warned Iran on Tuesday that they will end their two-year negotiations over the country’s nuclear program and pursue punitive action if Iran carries out its threat to resume sensitive nuclear work.

But underscoring their determination to keep the talks going, the Europeans also asked Iran to wait until they presented it with a package of incentives before breaking its freeze on uranium conversion and enrichment activities.

“Were Iran to resume currently suspended activities, our negotiations would be brought to an end, and we would have no other option but to pursue other courses of action,” the foreign ministers of the three countries said in a letter to Hassan Rowhani, the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. “We therefore call upon Iran not to resume suspended activities or take other unilateral steps.”

The letter, which is backed by the 25-nation European Union, comes as the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear monitoring agency, has agreed to Iran’s request to install surveillance cameras at its nuclear facility in Isfahan to enable Iran to resume its uranium enrichment activities under international safeguards.

Once the cameras are functioning, which will take about a week, Iran could resume activities and legally still be in compliance with its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, two senior IAEA officials said.

But if it did so, Iran would be breaking its voluntary agreement with the Europeans to indefinitely suspend such activities as long as negotiations continued.

In Iran on Tuesday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamid Reza Asefi, rejected the Europeans’ warning, vowing that his country would never abandon its “legitimate rights” to peaceful nuclear technology under international law. “The time for threats and intimidation is over,” Asefi was quoted by the official Iranian news agency IRNA as saying.

But the senior IAEA official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity under agency rules, said that agency inspectors had visited the Isfahan site Tuesday and that Iran had not yet broken protective seals and started the machines working again.

The verbal battle is the latest — and potentially most serious — contest between Iran and the three European countries acting under the umbrella of the European Union. If Iran carries out its threat to resume nuclear work, the Europeans, with the prodding of the Bush administration, will have no choice but to seek to have Iran punished in some way by the U.N. Security Council, even if only with a resolution of concern or disapproval.

Unless Iran is in clear violation of its international obligations, it will be difficult to persuade the Security Council to impose punitive economic measures.

The Bush administration is convinced that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons facility and is moving forward to make bombs. The Europeans also believe that Iran wants nuclear weapons, but is determined to at least stall the process through negotiations.