Iran nuclear talks enter third day

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Talks between Iran and three other countries continued on Wednesday in Vienna, Austria, as they try to work out a deal that will ease tensions over Iran's controversial nuclear program. Diplomats from Iran, Russia, France, and the United States began the third day of talks at the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Talks stalled on Tuesday, after Iran expressed resistance to aspects of the proposal, in which it would send most of its low-enriched — or below weapons- grade — uranium to Russia and France for further refinement, to be later used as reactor fuel.

The IAEA's ambassador to Iran, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, described the ongoing consultations as being "constructive".

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said that Iran is opposed to France's involvement, accusing the country of failing to deliver nuclear supplies in the past. "There is Russia, America [...] I believe these countries are enough," Mottaki said. "France, based on its shortcomings to fulfil its obligations in the past, is not a trustworthy party to provide fuel for Iran."

Mottaki also added that an agreement would not mean that Iran would suspend its enrichment activity. "Iran will continue its uranium enrichment. It is not linked to buying fuel from abroad. The meetings with world powers, and their behaviour, shows that Iran's right to have peaceful nuclear technology has been accepted by them," he said.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said on Tuesday that progress was being made and that technical issues still needed to be analysed. He said an agreement was still within reach. "I believe we are making progress. It is maybe slower than I expected. But we are moving forward," he said.

ElBaradei added that while "many technical issues" had to be considered, talks were still "moving forward".

US National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said that US and Iranian delegations held separate discussions on the proposed uranium enrichment deal, under the auspices of the IAEA.

A diplomat familiar with the Vienna talks said the parties now are considering a compromise deal that would allow Russia to sub-contract enrichment work to France, thereby meeting Iran's request to avoid direct dealings with the country. The enrichment deal would be intended to ease concerns that Iranian uranium enrichment activities are aimed at developing nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council recently imposed three sets of sanctions on Iran for its refusal to halt its enrichment activities.

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