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Iran says Vienna talks won't curb nuclear drive
Tue Oct 20, 2009 11:51am EDT
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By Parisa Hafezi
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's foreign minister said on Tuesday that Tehran will never abandon its "legal and obvious" right to nuclear technology and will not curb uranium enrichment, despite talks which the West hopes will lead to restraints on the program.
The negotiations in Vienna offer the first chance to build on tentative deals made in Geneva on October 1 to defuse a standoff over suspicions that Iran's uranium enrichment campaign is covertly intended to develop nuclear weapons.
"The meetings with world powers and their behavior shows that Iran's right to have peaceful nuclear technology has been accepted by them. Iran will never abandon its legal and obvious right," Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said.
Western diplomats said the talks aimed to flesh out details of an Iranian agreement in principle in Geneva to send low-enriched uranium to Russia and France for further refinement. This would be converted into fuel rods to replenish dwindling fuel stocks of a Tehran reactor that makes radio-isotopes for cancer care.
The meeting between Iran and Russia, France and the United States, hosted by the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, began on Monday but stalled on Tuesday after Tehran suddenly refused to deal directly with France.
Mottaki and other officials in Tehran said France could not be part of the uranium supply plan, accusing it of reneging on contracts to deliver nuclear materials in the past.
A senior diplomat familiar with the talks said the parties were considering a face-saving compromise drafted by the U.N. nuclear watchdog. Under this Iran would sign a contract with Russia, and Russia would sub-contract further work to France.
Other tough issues were requiring back-door consultations to settle before the meeting could resume to seal an agreement.
They included how much low-enriched uranium (LEU) Iran would send out, and when. Western powers wanted this to be about 75 percent of its declared stockpile, and to be shipped abroad in one consignment before the end of the year.
French, U.S. and Russian delegations were seen circulating a draft document during the day. But a 1430 GMT target for resuming the meeting was not met, without explanation.
The West hopes that farming out a large amount of Iran's LEU reserve for reprocessing into fuel for the medical isotope reactor -- using technology Iran lacks -- will minimize the risk of Iran refining the material to high purity suitable for bombs.
Western diplomats say Tehran must ultimately curb the program to dispel fears of a growing LEU stockpile being further enriched, covertly, to produce nuclear weapons.
ENRICHMENT TO CONTINUE
But Mottaki said Iran would not curtail enrichment as part of the LEU deal, as demanded by the U.N. Security Council. "Iran will continue its uranium enrichment. It is not linked to buying fuel from abroad," he told a Tehran news conference.
LEU is used as fuel for nuclear reactors, while a nuclear bomb requires highly enriched uranium. The West fears Iran's declared civilian nuclear energy program is a front for producing fissile material for atomic bombs. Iran denies this. Continued...
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