"What is being suggested is very much insignificant," Sirus Naseri, a senior Iranian negotiator in nuclear talks with the European Union, said on Friday.

"In fact, it is too insignificant to comment about."

Earlier, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Washington would allow Iran to begin talks on joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and would consider letting it buy civilian airline parts if it ceased all activities that could produce fuel for nuclear power plants or atomic weapons.

   

Naseri said Iran had not changed its position on uranium enrichment. He said France, Britain and Germany, who are trying to persuade Iran to give up enrichment in exchange for economic and political incentives, know Tehran will never give it up.

 

"To abandon our nuclear fuel programme is not on the table. This is very clear to our European partners," he said.

 

Programme will continue

 

"Now that we can produce our own nuclear fuel, to give it up and rely on others to provide it would simply be ludicrous. Would the US do it? Or France, Germany, Britain or the Netherlands?" Naseri said.

 

Venezuelan President Chavez (R)
supports Iran's position

Washington says Iran's atomic programme is a front to build weapons. Iran insists its nuclear ambitions are limited to the peaceful generation of electricity.

 

Naseri said Rice might have been misled in thinking Iran might stop its work on uranium enrichment, a process of purifying uranium for use as fuel in power plants or weapons.

 

"I agree with Ms Rice that our enrichment programme should not be used for military purposes. But that there should be no nuclear fuel production at all - she has either been misled or is completely mistaken."

   

He said the goal of nuclear talks with the Europeans was "ensuring our uranium is not enriched beyond the levels that would be needed for civilian purposes. Nothing else."

 

Talks to resume

 

EU diplomats close to the Iran-EU talks said the latest round in Geneva broke off earlier on Friday without any agreement on what to do with Iran's enrichment programme. Talks will resume next week, they said.

 

Naseri said an agreement with the Europeans was possible if the political situation permitted. However, he said there needed to be movement from entrenched positions towards a compromise that would be acceptable to both sides.

 

"I think there will be movement, I expect there will be movement," he said.