AFP: Iran’s top nuclear negotiator on Friday called off a trip to Europe to discuss the crisis over his country’s atomic ambitions as the UN nuclear watchdog prepared a report recommending cuts in technical aid to Iran. by Michael Adler
VIENNA, Feb 9, 2007 (AFP) – Iran’s top nuclear negotiator on Friday called off a trip to Europe to discuss the crisis over his country’s atomic ambitions as the UN nuclear watchdog prepared a report recommending cuts in technical aid to Iran.
The envoy, Ali Larijani, was to have met International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei before going on to a security conference in Munich, Germany attended by many top international leaders.
Iran’s state news agency, IRNA, announced that Larijani’s visit to the conference has been called off. “Dr Larijani’s trip to Munich has been cancelled due to his illness,” the agency quoted an informed source at the Iranian embassy in Germany as saying.
Larijani has previously postponed several trips and meetings to discuss the nuclear dispute.
Larijani was to meet ElBaradei as the UN agency chief sent out a report to the IAEA board of governors’s 35 member states saying which of the 82 technical aid projects with Iran will be cut in line with UN sanctions.
Following a resolution passed by the UN Security Council on December 23, over Iran’s refusal to halt uranium enrichment, the United States has been pressing for the 82 technical aid projects with Iran to be cut by half.
Enrichment uses centrifuges to make fuel for civilian nuclear reactors but can also produce atom bomb material. It is at the heart of US charges that Iran is hiding work to develop nuclear weapons.
Tehran insists its programme is peaceful.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel and new US Defence Secretary Robert Gates are among top officials expected at the Munich conference where, diplomats said, Europe was to make a new push to persuade Iran to fall in line with UN resolutions.
ElBaradei had in January proposed a “time-out” in the confrontation over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Iran rejected the December UN resolution which imposed limited sanctions in a bid to force a halt in enrichment. ElBaradei has proposed that in simultaneous moves Iran should suspend enrichment and the United Nations should hold off on sanctions.
The resolution also said nations should stop aid to Iran which might help it “make nuclear reactor fuel” or develop “nuclear weapons delivery systems.”
ElBaradei was to issue another report on February 21 on Iranian enrichment work. This could lead to tougher UN sanctions if it shows Iran continuing to defy the Security Council.
Iran is pressing ahead with building an underground plant at Natanz in central Iran for industrial-level uranium enrichment.
Russia supports ElBaradei’s “time-out” proposal.
The Munich meeting, which concentrates on informal contacts between top international leaders, would have been a rare chance to bring together all the protagonists in the diplomatic tussle.
EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, who led EU talks with Tehran is also to be in Tehran.