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Iran asks EU3 for last-ditch talks

But Britain says no new proposals before crucial IAEA meeting

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Iran
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
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Moscow (Russia)

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Iran has asked to meet with the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany -- the so-called EU3 which has been trying to reach an agreement with Tehran on its nuclear program.

The meeting is to be held in Vienna with Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, just days before the International Atomic Energy Agency is to meet March 6 on whether to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council.

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei urged all parties "to use this opportunity to create the necessary conditions to return to negotiations."

"I call on Iran to demonstrate full transparency toward the IAEA to resolve important outstanding issues related to its nuclear program," he said. "I also call on Iran to take all the necessary confidence-building measures required to assure the international community of the peaceful nature of its nuclear program."

A spokesman for the British Foreign Office downplayed any hopes of a breakthrough.

"We will listen, but we have no new proposals. Our position is already set out in the IAEA board resolution of the 4th of February," he said.

In that resolution, the IAEA's board of governors voted to report Iran's nuclear activities to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions. But the board will officially gather on March 6 to make that recommendation.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has, in response, ordered the Islamic state to end its voluntary cooperation with the IAEA, which wants Tehran to take action to prove its nuclear intentions are peaceful.

Iran and Russia have been meeting in Moscow this week about a joint enrichment venture in an attempt to end the impasse over Iran's nuclear program. Russia has offered to enrich uranium for Iran inside Russia, provided Iran ceased enrichment activities inside its own borders.

But Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has said his country's "final target" was to enrich uranium on its own soil -- even if it ends up accepting the Russian proposal.

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, but the West, particularly the United States, charges the nuclear power program is simply a front for a nuclear weapons program.

At a news conference during a surprise visit to Afghanistan Wednesday, U.S. President George W. Bush said Iran "must not have a nuclear weapon."

"The most destabilizing thing that can happen is for Iran to have a nuclear weapon," he said. "We will work with friends and allies to convince them not to."

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