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UN Watchdog Meets Amid Crisis Over Iranian Nuclear Work

Iran's head of delegation for the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) Cyrus Nasseri speaks to journalists after the board meeting at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna 09 August 2005. The governors of the UN nuclear watchdog were holding an emergency meeting on Tuesday after Iran resumed work at a uranium conversion plant, fanning Western fears it may be seeking nuclear weapons. AFP photo by Joe Klamar.
Vienna (AFP) Aug 09, 2005
The UN watchdog atomic agency was unable to agree Tuesday at the first day of its emergency meeting in Vienna how to respond to Iran's possibly weapons-related nuclear activity, even as Iran vowed to push on with the sensitive fuel work.

In Crawford, Texas, US President George W. Bush warned Iran that it might face UN sanctions over its nuclear activities, while welcoming reports Tehran is ready to resume talks to defuse the standoff.

Bush thanked Britain, France and Germany for leading those diplomatic efforts and said: "We will work with them in terms of what consequences there may be, and certainly the United Nations is a potential consequence."

"Just as I was walking in here, I received word that the new Iranian president said he was willing to get back to the table," said Bush. "If he did say that, I think that's a positive sign."

In Tehran, Iranian President Mahmood Ahmadinejad described as "an insult" an EU offer to Iran of trade and other incentives in return for guarantees the Islamic Republic is not making nuclear weapons, but said he was still ready to carry on talks.

In Vienna, Iranian negotiator Cyrus Nasseri said Iran was "prepared to continue negotiations with the EU-3 (Britain, France and Germany)... as long as there are no preconditions" and the talks are in "good faith."

Nasseri said Iran was "frustrated" that the EU-3 were still not acknowledging what Iran considers its right under the NPT to make nuclear fuel as part of a peaceful atomic program.

He said the Iranian fuel program was a "jewel" to keep and that the EU offer was a "lollipop" they could take back.

Iranian atomic energy agency chief Mohammad Saidi said the seals that watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) placed on Iran's uranium conversion plant in Isfahan should be broken by midday Wednesday.

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

Breaking the seals is the next crucial step at the plant after Iran resumed on Monday uranium conversion activities it had suspended in November to get talks with the EU started. This sparked warnings of an end to Iran's nine-month-old negotiations with the European Union on nuclear guarantees.

But 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.

At an IAEA meeting that could last several days, the EU-3 circulated a draft resolution calling on Iran to stop nuclear fuel work that has raised concerns of a possible weapons program, according to a copy obtained by AFP.

Conversion is the first step in enriching uranium to produce fuel for nuclear power reactors, with highly enriched uranium also used to make the explosive core of atom bombs.

However, diplomats noted warnings from non-aligned and other states that cracking down on Iran could isolate it, as with North Korea, 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," according to a foreign ministry statement.

Greg Schulte, the US ambassador to the IAEA, told reporters that "Iran must not be allowed to violate its international commitments and must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons," which Washington charges it is doing covertly.

Iran has said it only aims to produce fuel for its nuclear energy program.

Iran says it has the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a position supported by IAEA board members such as Brazil which have their own nuclear programs.

Nasseri confirmed that South Africa was working on a proposal that would allow Iran to do conversion work, with the uranium gas made from this process given to another country to distill into enriched uranium.

"The threat (of referral to the Security Council) is being held for a second meeting," a diplomat close to the IAEA said.

All rights reserved. 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.

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Iran Vows No Way Back From Nuclear Move
Tehran (AFP) Aug 07, 2005
Iran on Sunday insisted there was no going back from its decision to resume uranium conversion in defiance of the European Union, despite an upcoming meeting of the UN nuclear watchdog and warnings of an international crisis.

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