Iran, IAEA End Talks on Tehran’s N. Program

A03119069.jpgIranian officials and the UN’s nuclear watchdog ended four days of talks here aimed at resolving questions related to the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. The conclusion of the talks comes as the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany meet in London on Friday to try to coordinate strategy toward Iran’s disputed nuclear activities.

The Iranian side expressed satisfaction with the UN discussions, which focused on P-1 and P-2 centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium, said a report on the Web site of Iran’s state broadcasting company. The talks, which began Monday and ended Thursday, were the third round between the two sides to discuss the machines.

“In the talks, the agency’s negotiators raised their questions and ambiguities over the machines, and the Iranian side provided necessary answers and information,” the Web site quoted Javad Vaeedi, head of the Iranian negotiating team, as saying. The report did not provide further details.

The discussions were the latest attempt by the Vienna, Austria-based IAEA to address outstanding questions about the Iranian program. IAEA deputy chief, Olli Heinonen, headed the U.N. delegation.

The talks in Tehran were seen as critical because they will form the basis for a progress report on Iran’s nuclear activities planned for mid-November by Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the UN-affiliated International Atomic Energy Agency.

In September, ElBaradei praised Iran’s cooperation with the agency so far, but urged Tehran to answer all questions before the end of the year.

Speaking to the UN General Assembly on Monday, ElBaradei stressed that “Iran’s cooperation and transparency were keys” to his report on Iran’s nuclear program.

Centrifuges are used in enriching uranium, a process that can produce fuel for a nuclear reactor at low levels of purity. P-2 centrifuges are more sophisticated, consume less electricity and produce more enriched uranium than their predecessors, the P-1 centrifuges.

The United States, Britain and France are preparing to debate a third set of sanctions against the Islamic republic in response to Tehran’s refusal to halt uranium enrichment. Iran has rejected two UN Security Council resolutions requiring it to halt its enrichment program.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, suggested a way out of the crisis is a proposal by the Arab nations around the Persian Gulf to form a consortium that would build a uranium enrichment plant to supply the region’s states, including Iran, with reactor fuel.

Speaking with the Middle East Economic Digest in London, he said the plant should be sited in a neutral country outside the region.

“The US is not involved, but I don’t think it (would be) hostile to this, and it would resolve a main area of tension between the West and Iran,” the magazine quoted Prince Saud as saying.

He said the idea had been proposed to Iran’s government, which said it would consider the plan.

The agreement between the IAEA and Iran commits Tehran to clear up by December all questions about its program.

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