Middle East

Tehran says it agreed on ‘some points’ with IAEA

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (C) delivers a speech as he stands under portraits of late founder of Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (L) and supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali khamenei (R) during a rally in Tehran's Azadi Square (Freedom Square) to mark the 34th anniversary of the Islamic revolution on February 10, 2013. (AFP PHOTO/BEHROUZ MEHRI)

TEHRAN: Iran agreed on “some points” in talks with U.N. atomic experts in Tehran Wednesday, two weeks ahead of negotiations with world powers aimed at finding a diplomatic solution to end a standoff over its nuclear ambitions.

“Some differences were resolved and agreement on some issues in the modality was reached,” Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency.

“New proposals,” Soltanieh said, had been put forward in the meeting but they would be discussed at “future meetings.” He did not say if a date had been agreed for the resumption of talks with the IAEA, whose chief inspector Herman Nackaerts led its delegation to Tehran.

Nackaerts had hoped that in Tehran, the IAEA would “finalize the structured approach document” which would allow a probe into a possible military dimension of Iran’s nuclear drive.

The Vienna-based agency says “overall, credible” evidence exist that until 2003 and possibly since Iran conducted nuclear weapons research, despite repeated denials from Tehran.

The IAEA is also pressuring Tehran to grant it access to Parchin, a military base near Tehran where the agency suspects Iran could have carried out experiments with explosives capable of triggering a nuclear weapon.

Those calls have been spurned by Tehran, which says it should first reach a final agreement with the IAEA before such visit is debated.

Wednesday’s discussions took place as the P5+1 group of the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany are gearing for parallel diplomatic efforts to persuade Iran to curb parts of its nuclear drive.

The six are to meet Iranian negotiators in the Kazakh city of Almaty on Feb. 26, after an eight-month hiatus and failed meetings in Istanbul, Baghdad and Moscow.

European Union Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton, who coordinates efforts with the P5+1, said Wednesday she hoped Iran would show some “flexibility” at the upcoming talks.

“We hope that Iran will come to these negotiations with flexibility, and that we can make substantial progress,” Ashton told the U.N. Security Council.

“We remain determined to work toward a solution to the Iran nuclear issue based on the dual-track approach,” combining sanctions and dialogue, she said.

Iran is already slapped with multiple sets of Security Council sanctions for its refusal to stop uranium enrichment, a process that can be used for peaceful atomic purposes as well as for making the core of a nuclear bomb.

The United States and the European Union have also imposed their own separate sanctions to choke off Iran’s revenue from its vital oil exports – a measure exacerbating Iran’s struggling economy and rising inflation.

In November, the U.S. warned that if there was no progress in a deal between Iran and the IAEA, it would push for the U.N. agency to take the rare step of referring Tehran to the U.N. Security Council.

As the talks with the IAEA were under way Wednesday, Iran announced it was upgrading its uranium enrichment machines.

Vice President Fereidoun Abbasi told the official IRNA news agency that the machines will only produce low-level enriched uranium, which is used to make nuclear fuel, but high-level enrichment makes it suitable for use in the core of a nuclear weapon. Abbasi said Iranian nuclear scientists began installing the advanced centrifuges at Natanz about a month ago.

Iran has more than 10,000 centrifuges that are enriching uranium at Natanz, 225 kilometers southeast of Tehran.

But the machines are of the old IR-1 type.

Iran told the IAEA last month that it intended to install newer IR-2 centrifuges, machines that can produce more enriched uranium at a shorter period of time.

Abbasi said Iran would use the new machines to produce 5 percent level enriched uranium.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 14, 2013, on page 1.




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