Uranium talks “off to a good start”
Talks between Iranian, Russian, French, and United States officials are "off to a good start" according to Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog.
The four countries met at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today in Vienna, despite a statement on Iranian television shortly beforehand saying that the government would not deal directly with France, due to it previously failing to provide "nuclear materials".
The countries are working on a deal which would allow Iran to send enriched uranium to France and Russia and converted for use in a medical isotopes research reactor. This is the first time that a deal has been worked on regarding Iran's nuclear programme since the issue was brought up at a meeting in Geneva at the start of this month.
One concern is that Iran has not sent its atomic agency chief, an indication that a resolution of the matter may be be achieved; nevertheless ElBaradei remained positive. "We had this afternoon quite a constructive meeting. We're off to a good start. Most of the technical issues have been discussed," he said following the meeting. The head of the Iranian delegation, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, agreed with with the comments, but declined to comment on Iranian media reports that the government is reluctant to send its nuclear fuel. Talks are due to resume tomorrow morning.
 Defiant stance
A senior Iranian official denied reports on state broadcaster Press TV that Iran only wanted to import higher-enriched uranium for its research reactor directly from France, Russia or the US, due to difficulties under current UN sanctions.
Iran's nuclear energy agency spokesman, Ali Shirzadian, said the deal would not end nuclear enrichment activities, as it was not "economically feasible" to purify further low enriched uranium itself to the 130-300kg yield required, addeding this was an option if talks "do not bring about Iran's desired result".
Iran escaped further UN sanctions after talks in Geneva earlier this month. It agreed to IAEA inspections of a hidden nuclear site, believed to be near the holy city of Qom and to send nuclear material to Russia and France for processing, part of the deal being negotiated at the Vienna talks. According to Western officials, Iran already agreed tentatively in Geneva to major points, but this is denied by Iran.
According to a Western diplomat, who wished to remain anonymous, the talks this week were supposed to seal the deal. "But, since we have had no negotiations thus far with the Iranians, the next couple of days could reopen a lot of what we hoped was already agreed in principle," he added.