Iran Nuclear NewsIran's nuclear chief leaves for Munich talks

Iran’s nuclear chief leaves for Munich talks

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Reuters: Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani has left Tehran to attend a conference in Munich where he plans to meet European officials, state television reported on Saturday. By Edmund Blair

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani has left Tehran to attend a conference in Munich where he plans to meet European officials, state television reported on Saturday.

U.N. officials have said they hoped the planned meeting would allow some breathing space in the standoff between Iran and the West over Tehran’s nuclear program.

“Larijani … has left to take part in the Munich conference,” said the television. It did not say when he would arrive in the German city.

Organizers of the Munich Security Conference, bringing together some of the world’s top politicians, said on Friday Larijani had canceled his visit due to illness but later reported he would attend. The conference began on Friday.

The United Nations has imposed sanctions on Iran over its failure to prove to the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), that experimental efforts to enrich uranium are geared solely to generating electricity as it maintains. The West suspects Iran wants to produce atom bombs.

Iran has said it would make an announcement of “significant” nuclear progress on Sunday when it crowns 10 days of celebrations marking the anniversary of its 1979 Islamic revolution.

DIPLOMACY

Washington is building up forces in the Gulf but says it is committed to diplomacy and has no intention of invading Iran.

Keeping up a war of words on Friday, UnderSecretary of State Nicholas Burns told reporters in Buenos Aires Iran was “digging a hole deeper and deeper for itself”.

He said an offer to Iran to negotiate was still on the table if Tehran suspended enrichment, but added: “Iran seems to be determined to further its isolation internationally.”

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger said the talks with Larijani had been arranged with an eye to a February 21 U.N. Security Council deadline for Iran to stop enriching uranium for nuclear fuel or risk broader financial sanctions.

According to a report obtained by Reuters on Friday, the IAEA has cut back almost half its technical aid projects in Iran to uphold the U.N. sanctions.

The aid reduction, based on a review by IAEA experts, will go for final approval to a March meeting of the IAEA’s board of governors, where Western and developing states are split over how hard to crack down on Iran.

“This is a substantial cut in the technical aid program,” said a senior U.N. official, who declined to be named. “It is a message of inducement to Iran to reconsider its course.”

The existing U.N. resolution bans transfers of sensitive nuclear materials and know-how to Iran as well as IAEA aid, traditionally given to bolster peaceful uses of nuclear energy, if it has any possible use in producing atomic fuel.

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