Reuters: Iran’s nuclear programme is continuing “non-stop”, an Iranian official said on Sunday, the eve of high-level talks with the U.N. atomic watchdog aimed at defusing Western suspicions about Tehran’s intentions. By Fredrik Dahl
TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran’s nuclear programme is continuing “non-stop”, an Iranian official said on Sunday, the eve of high-level talks with the U.N. atomic watchdog aimed at defusing Western suspicions about Tehran’s intentions.
Iran, under U.N. pressure to suspend activities the West suspects are aimed at assembling atom bombs, agreed in June to draft an “action plan” within 60 days to give the International Atomic Energy Agency more access to its nuclear facilities and resolve IAEA questions about the nature of the programme.
Having repeatedly rejected international demands to stop enriching uranium for atomic fuel, diplomats say Iran is showing signs of cooperation with the IAEA to avert a third and harsher round of U.N. Security Council sanctions.
The Islamic Republic says it wants solely electricity from enriched uranium so that OPEC’s No. 2 producer can sell more of its valuable oil and gas.
“Iran’s enrichment activities are continuing non-stop and under the full supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency,” Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s ambassador to the Vienna-based IAEA, told Mehr news agency in Tehran.
He was speaking ahead of discussions between senior agency and Iranian officials to start in Tehran on Monday, following talks at the same level last month in the Austrian capital.
“In this round, the issue will be discussed from the legal, technical and political aspects,” Soltanieh said. “The goal of the negotiations is to solve the remaining issues.”
Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran’s right to obtain peaceful nuclear energy should be accepted, saying the country was moving forward in a transparent and legal way, the ISNA news agency reported from the northeastern city of Mashhad.
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has said Iran’s pledge to work out an action plan by late August has raised hope of resolving the standoff between Iran and the West. World powers have put off efforts to toughen sanctions at least until September.
But the United States, leading efforts to isolate Iran, has made clear Tehran must halt uranium enrichment as a precondition for broader negotiations on economic and trade incentives.
Enriched uranium can be used as fuel in power plants or, if refined to a much higher degree, provide material for bombs.
The talks starting on Monday between Olli Heinonen, IAEA deputy director in charge of nuclear safeguards, and Iran’s deputy nuclear negotiator Javad Vaeedi are expected to tackle the thorniest questions about Tehran’s nuclear programme.
They include the origin of traces of highly enriched — or bomb-grade — uranium found on some equipment, experiments with plutonium, and the status of research into advanced centrifuges that can enrich three times as fast as the model Iran now uses.
“So far there have been useful and constructive talks,” Vaeedi told the IRNA news agency.
Asked whether Iran had agreed to let IAEA inspectors install more cameras at its underground Natanz enrichment plant to improve so-far limited monitoring there, he said: “There has been no final agreement yet.”
After last month’s talks between Heinonen and Vaeedi, Tehran allowed U.N. inspectors to revisit the Arak heavy-water reactor under construction. Tehran had cut off access in April to protest against a second batch of sanctions.