Iran starts talks with IAEA on nuclear programme

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Tehran, Sep 25: Iranian nuclear officials and a visiting team from the UN nuclear watchdog held talks yesterday to clarify outstanding questions about Iran's atomic work, which the West fears is a cover to build a nuclear bomb.

The talks with International Atomic Energy Agency officials ''will continue in the next two or three days,'' Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told the state broadcaster IRIB.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking at New York's Columbia University during a visit to the United States, said today that Iran's nuclear programme was for electricity generation. ''We don't believe in nuclear weapons, period.'' Iran agreed with the IAEA on August 21 that it would explain the scope of its nuclear programme.

The pact allows Iran to settle questions one by one over a period the IAEA says will run to December -- even as Iran adds centrifuges to its Natanz enrichment plant, nearing the 3,000 needed to start producing usable quantities of nuclear fuel.

Western powers have cast doubt on the deal, saying it allows Tehran to string out answers to questions about past, hidden nuclear work while leaving intact its uranium enrichment programme, a possible path to the building of atom bombs.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has said Iran's pledge of transparency to remove Western suspicions has raised hope of resolving its nuclear issue.

Hosseini said Iran had already removed some concerns and ''the focus of the talks will be P1 and P2 centrifuges.'' Iran is using a 1970s vintage centrifuge prone to breakdown if spun at high speed for long periods but is researching a more advanced, more durable model at sites off limits to inspectors.

Centrifuges are machines that enrich uranium.

The IAEA says Tehran has resolved the first issue relating to its nuclear work -- small experiments with plutonium, kept secret in violation of Iran's non-proliferation commitments.

France, Britain, Germany, the United States, Russia and China said they had ''serious and constructive'' talks on Friday on new UN sanctions aimed at trying to force Iran to halt its nuclear work. Iran has threatened to review its level of cooperation with the IAEA if they pass another UN resolution.

Senior Foreign Ministry official Hamid Baidinejad said today Iran was ready to review implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) if its case was sent back to the IAEA, the official IRNA news agency reported.

In February 2006 Iran ended voluntary implementation of the protocol after being referred to the UN Security Council.

Reuters>

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