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. UN watchdog holds emergency talks on Iran's nuclear programme
VIENNA (AFP) Aug 10, 2005
The UN atomic agency continues emergency talks on Iran's nuclear ambitions on Wednesday, after US President George W. Bush expressed scepticism at signs Tehran was ready to resume talks with European powers.

On the first day of its meeting in Vienna on Tuesday, the watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was unable to agree on a response to the Islamic republic's resumption on Monday of sensitive nuclear activities.

An IAEA spokeswoman said the body planned to resume full talks on Wednesday.

"We are hoping to reconvene tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon, but it all very much depends on how things go on the drafting of a text," the spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said.

Iran has been under investigation for more than two years by the IAEA , which has accused it of hiding controversial nuclear work but has yet to find any proof of a weapons programme.

Conversion turns uranium ore or yellowcake into a feed gas for enriching uranium, which can be the fuel for reactors or the explosive core of atom bombs.

Washington has taken the most hardline stance, accusing Tehran of using a civilian nuclear program as cover for a quest for atomic weapons, a charge Iran denies.

Speaking in Crawford, Texas, after the first day of the IAEA talks, Bush warned Iran that the threat of UN sanctions over its nuclear activities remained, and made clear he was was "deeply suspicious" of Tehran's stated intention to resume talks with a trio of European Union states.

"We'll have to watch very carefully," Bush told reporters.

"They have, in the past, said they would adhere to international norms and then were caught enriching uranium. And that's dangerous."

Bush warned of possible UN sanctions on Iran if negotiations with Britain, France and Germany fail to ease fears Tehran is seeking atomic weapons.

The emergency meeting of the IAEA was called after Iran on Monday resumed uranium conversion activities it had suspended in November at its plant in Isfahan to get talks with the EU started.

France, Britain and Germany have headed the negotiations on behalf of the European Union.

In Tehran on Tuesday Iran's new President Mahmood Ahmadinejad described as "an insult" an EU offer to Iran of trade and other incentives in return for guarantees it was not making nuclear weapons, but said he was still ready to carry on talks.

And in Vienna, Iranian negotiator Cyrus Nasseri said Iran was prepared to continue talks with the EU as long as there were no preconditions and the talks were in "good faith."

Nasseri said Iran was frustrated the EU was still not acknowledging what Iran considers its right under the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to make nuclear fuel as part of a peaceful atomic program.

Iranian atomic energy agency chief Mohammad Saidi said the seals that the IAEA had placed on the Isfahan plant should be broken by midday Wednesday, the next crucial step after the resumption of conversion activities.

IAEA inspectors "finished installing their surveillance cameras" in the plant on Tuesday, he said.

According to diplomatic sources, the IAEA board is unlikely to refer Iran to the UN Security Council because of its resumption of uranium conversion but will instead urge Tehran to suspend work. The meeting could last several days.

Resolutions on the 35-nation board are normally adopted unanimously.

In France, Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said: "It is still possible to negotiate" with Iran. "We are still holding out our hand," he told journalists.

However, diplomats noted warnings that cracking down on Iran could isolate the country and said the IAEA board was backing away from referring it to the UN Security Council, which could impose sanctions.

Malaysian ambassador Rajmah Hussein, speaking for the non-aligned movement, called on the Europeans and Iran "to continue with their dialogue" and said verification issues "should be resolved solely within the framework of the

But Russia, which is building Iran's first nuclear power reactor and is to supply it with nuclear fuel, came out against Iran, calling on it to halt fuel production work "without delay".

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