Iran Nuclear NewsIran, IAEA tackle centrifuge questions

Iran, IAEA tackle centrifuge questions

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AP: Senior officials from Iran and the U.N. nuclear watchdog began a final round of talks Monday aimed at resolving remaining questions on Iranian centrifuges that are used to enrich uranium. The Associated Press

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Senior officials from Iran and the U.N. nuclear watchdog began a final round of talks Monday aimed at resolving remaining questions on Iranian centrifuges that are used to enrich uranium.

The Tehran talks are critical because they will provide the basis for a progress report on Iran by the U.N. agency’s chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, planned for mid-November.

“In this new round of talks, we hope we’ll be able to conclude our negotiations,” Iranian state television quoted Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of the country’s Atomic Energy Organization, as saying.

The discussions are the latest attempt by the International Atomic Energy Agency to address outstanding questions on the Iranian program, which some Western countries believe masks work on nuclear weapons but which Iran insists is focused on electricity generation.

The IAEA’s deputy chief, Olli Heinonen, heads the U.N. delegation, while Iran’s is led by Javad Vaeedi from the Supreme National Security Council, a security decision-making body that handles Iran’s nuclear talks with the outside world.

Saeedi said the two previous rounds of talks with the IAEA were “comprehensive” and also “frank and explicit.” He said Tehran was prepared to answer remaining questions to “close the file” on its centrifuge technology.

Heinonen said Iran has provided “good cooperation” with the U.N. agency in clearing up ambiguities over Tehran’s centrifuge technology.

Neither official provided details.

Centrifuges are used in enriching uranium, a process that can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or the material for a warhead.

Iran says it used P-1 centrifuges, which are less sophisticated than later generation P-2 centrifuges, which use less electricity and produce more enriched uranium. But Tehran also has confirmed it has conducted laboratory research on the advanced P-2 centrifuge.

Iranian state radio said Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA represented “new steps toward building confidence” and would undermine efforts by the U.S. and its allies to impose new U.N. sanctions, over Iran’s defiance of a Security Council demand that it suspend uranium enrichment.

In September, ElBaradei praised Iran’s cooperation with the agency, but urged Tehran to answer all questions — including those on reported experiments that link enrichment and missile technology — before the end of the year.

In speaking to the U.N. General Assembly on Monday, ElBaradei stressed that “Iran’s cooperation and transparency are key” to his report on Iran’s nuclear program.

“These verification issues have been at the core of the lack of confidence about the nature of Iran’s program,” he said.

If Iran answers all outstanding questions, and the IAEA can verify that Iran’s program is peaceful, ElBaradei said that “could create the conditions for a comprehensive and durable solution.”

He also reiterated comments he made Sunday that he had no evidence Iran was working actively to build nuclear weapons and expressed concern that escalating U.S. rhetoric could bring disaster — a stance likely to anger Washington.

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 Security Council resolutions requiring it to halt its enrichment program.

Last week, the Bush administration announced a new set of U.S. sanctions targeting the Iranian military and state-owned banking systems in hopes of raising pressure on the world financial system to cut ties with Tehran.

Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

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