Iran Nuclear NewsIran sets defiant tone at start of talks over...

Iran sets defiant tone at start of talks over nuclear programme

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ImageThe Times: Iran struck a defiant note as it entered a new round of nuclear talks yesterday, insisting that it would not hesitate to produce highly enriched nuclear fuel if it did not get what it wanted out of negotiations. The Times

Catherine Philp, Diplomatic Correspondent

ImageIran struck a defiant note as it entered a new round of nuclear talks yesterday, insisting that it would not hesitate to produce highly enriched nuclear fuel if it did not get what it wanted out of negotiations.

The hardline statement came as Iranian representatives met Western and Russian officials in Vienna for talks that were overshadowed by a suicide attack that Tehran blamed on American and British Intelligence.

Representatives from France, the US, Russia and the UN met Iran to build on a proposal that was agreed in principle in Geneva this month to provide Tehran with nuclear fuel for its reactor that produces medical isotopes.

Iran had sought to buy 20 per cent enriched uranium — more enriched than that used to fuel nuclear power but lower than that needed for a weapon — from the West.

Russia and France offered instead to take Iran’s stocks of low-enriched uranium out of the country for conversion to a higher grade, a compromise that would prevent its from being diverted to a suspected weapons programme and delay the moment when Iran has sufficient fuel for a weapon.

Yesterday, however, the Iranian nuclear spokesman said that “if the talks do not bring about Iran’s desired result … we will start to make the higher enriched uranium ourselves”.

The Iranian state-run Press TV cited unnamed officials in Tehran as saying that the Islamic republic wanted to keep its low-enriched uranium and buy what it needed abroad. Such a stance would doom the talks.

However, the refusal by Tehran to give up most of its stock would abort chances of negotiations between Iran and six world powers, which are due to resume in Geneva this month, and could jeopardise a visit by UN inspectors to the plant at Qom.

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog insisted that talks were off to a good start. Mohamed ElBaradei told reporters that most of the technical issues had been covered. The talks are due to resume today.

Hanging over the talks is the suicide attack on the Revolutionary Guard on Sunday, which was claimed by the Sunni rebel group Jundallah. Iran reiterated its assertions that Britain and America were to blame. “Behind this scene are the American and British intelligence apparatus and there will have to be retaliatory measures to punish them,” Mohammed Ali Jafari, the commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guards, said.

He said that Iran would show its Pakistani counterparts evidence that the attack was launched from Pakistan with American and British help. The US and Britain deny involvement.

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