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. UN nuclear watchdog to hear report on Iran
VIENNA, Sept 11 (AFP) Sep 11, 2006
The UN nuclear watchdog's 35-nation board of governors will hear a report on Iran's nuclear program at a meeting which starts Monday, but is not expected to take decisive action.

"No one expects any fireworks," a diplomat close to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told AFP, as the political action over Iran's contested nuclear work is taking place elsewhere.

The IAEA has been investigating Iran's nuclear program for over three years on US charges that Tehran is hiding the development of nuclear weapons.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei will present a report that documents how Iran failed to heed an August 31 United Nations Security Council deadline to suspend uranium enrichment, which makes nuclear power reactor fuel but can also produce atom bomb material.

The board will also be considering items such as nuclear safety and technical cooperation in its work in some 200 countries worldwide, and in preparation for a general conference of all the IAEA countries in the week following the board meeting, IAEA spokesman Peter Rickwood said.

But while the IAEA board has in the past taken key steps on Iran, such as in February finding it in violation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) for hiding sensitive nuclear work, the stage is now set for the Security Council to hear US pleas for sanctions against Iran.

Six world powers have offered Iran negotiations on a package of trade and other benefits if it suspends uranium enrichment.

Iran has resolutely refused to suspend this strategic nuclear fuel work, saying it has a peaceful nuclear program and the right to enrich under the NPT, and defied the Security Council deadline.

Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Sunday in Vienna that they had cleared up misunderstandings and made progress in last-ditch talks to avert UN sanctions and would hold another meeting this week.

Solana had said Friday in Copenhagen that no UN sanctions would be imposed on Iran "as long as meetings with Mr. Larijani continue".

A European diplomat said that the Iranians could be stalling for time.

"Every possibility which extends their time frame without changing the substance (of their nuclear program) is a success for them," the diplomat said.

Another European diplomat said: "The key is whether there really is something serious happening at the talks" and that the Iranians still had to suspend enrichment.

In light of all this maneuvering, said a diplomat close to the IAEA, "any practical steps on Iran in Vienna may interfere with the discussion in New York," even if the IAEA is desperate to get Iran to re-instate the wide rights its inspectors had before being taken away after the IAEA board's finding Tehran in violation of the NPT in February.

"This board meeting could be over in three days," said another diplomat, instead of the week-long marathons that have marked board sessions when the Iran issue was tense, necessitating long debates and even longer back-room consultations.

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