Iran, IAEA Continue Talks

A03786491.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian officials and the deputy head of the UN atomic watchdog continued their latest round of talks on Iran’s nuclear drive on Tuesday.

Olli Heinonen, deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), arrived in Tehran early Monday for his second round of talks this month.

Heinonen was last in Iran on August 7 for talks over the two sides’ cooperation.

The UN nuclear watchdog official is attending talks with Deputy Director of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO) Mohammad Saeedi and Tehran’s permanent representative to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltaniyeh.

During his last visit to Tehran, Heinonen and Iranian officials discussed the technical aspects of the two sides’ cooperation within the framework of the nuclear safeguards agreement.

Iranian officials described those talks as “positive”.

The meetings were “constructive and were held in an atmosphere of mutual understanding” Saeedi said following two days of talks with Heinonen.

Heinonen’s visits to Tehran also fall within the agency’s longstanding efforts to ensure there is no military dimension to the nuclear drive, as alleged by certain western powers.

Washington and its Western allies accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, while they have never presented any corroborative document to substantiate their allegations. Iran denies the charges and insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Tehran stresses that the country has always pursued a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry.

Heinonen, who is in Tehran at the invitation of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, is accompanied by another unnamed IAEA expert, the Islamic republic news agency said.

Western media claim that Heinonen’s visits have focused on studies some western powers allege Iran has carried out in the past into the engineering involved in making a nuclear warhead.

Iran has dismissed the allegations as “baseless”, reminding that it had already provided a comprehensive response.

Despite the rules enshrined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) entitling every member state, including Iran, to the right of uranium enrichment, Tehran is now under three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions for turning down West’s illegitimate calls to give up its right of uranium enrichment.

Tehran has dismisses West’s demands as politically tainted and illogical, stressing that sanctions and pressures merely consolidate Iranians’ national resolve to continue the path.

Iran has so far ruled out halting or limiting its nuclear work in exchange for trade and other incentives, saying that renouncing its rights under the NPT would encourage world powers to put further pressure on the country and would not lead to a change in the West’s hardline stance on Tehran.

Iran insists that it will continue enriching uranium because it needs to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it is building in the southwestern town of Darkhoveyn as well as its first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr.

The Islamic Republic has repeatedly stressed that it considers its nuclear case closed as it has come clean of IAEA’s questions and suspicions about its past nuclear activities.

The United States has increased pressures over other world powers to impose a fourth round of UN sanctions against Iran after it failed to give a clear response to an incentives package offered by six major world powers in return for giving up its NPT right of uranium enrichment.

Tehran said that it would give a clear response to incentives package only after certain ambiguities existing in the proposals are removed.

Iran has also stated its readiness to hold more talks with the European Union on the package offered by Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

The UN Security Council remains divided over the issue of further sanctions against Iran’s nuclear energy program. China has remained silent on the issue while Russia denies that any agreement has been reached.

Political observers believe that the United States has remained at loggerheads with Iran over the independent and home-grown nature of Tehran’s nuclear technology, which gives the Islamic Republic the potential to turn into a world power and a role model for other third-world countries. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.

Washington’s push for additional UN penalties contradicts the report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran’s programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and similar reports by the IAEA head – one in November and the other one in February – which praised Iran’s truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities and announced settlement of outstanding issues with Tehran, any effort to impose further sanctions on Iran seems to be completely irrational.

The February report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised Iran’s cooperation in clearing up all of the past questions over its nuclear program, vindicating Iran’s nuclear program and leaving no justification for any new UN sanctions.

Observers believe that the shift of policy by the White House to send William Burns – the third highest-ranking diplomat in the US – to the talks with Iran happened after Bush’s attempt to rally international pressure against Iran lost steam due to the growing international vigilance.

US President George W. Bush finished a tour of the Middle East in winter to gain the consensus of his Arab allies to unite against Iran.

But hosting officials of the regional nations dismissed Bush’s allegations, describing Tehran as a good friend of their countries.

Many world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure against Iran unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports, stressing that Tehran’s case should be normalized and returned to the UN nuclear watchdog due to the Islamic Republic’s increased cooperation with the agency.

ElBaradei is due to submit another report on Iran’s nuclear program and its cooperation with the IAEA in mid-September, before the next meeting of the agency’s board of governors.

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