IAEA, Iran set more talks ahead of key UN report

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VIENNA, Nov 8 (Reuters) Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency will hold more talks today to resolve doubts about its nuclear work, officials said, a week ahead of an IAEA report key to deciding on any tougher sanctions against Tehran.

Iran had said at the end of four days of talks in Tehran a week ago that it had provided all information the IAEA needed to remove ambiguities about its development of centrifuge machines and there would be no more discussions about it.

But an IAEA official said Mohammad Saeedi, deputy director of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, would meet Olli Heinonen, the UN watchdog's deputy head in charge of non-proliferation safeguards, at agency headquarters in Vienna in the afternoon.

''It is part of the process, related to the work plan,'' the official said, referring to Iran's August pledge to answer questions about hidden nuclear research in a bid to avert harsher UN sanctions sought by Western powers.

After the Tehran round last week, Iranian delegation chief Javad Vaeedi said both sides were satisfied with ''the trend of the talks'' but he did not speak of results that would suggest the centrifuge file had been closed.

The IAEA has withheld comment on whether Iran, in a series of technical, highly secretive talks since August, has been resolving the issues of transparency one by one as promised.

The United States says the Iran-IAEA deal failed to address the core UN Security Council demand that Tehran suspend uranium enrichment work that could potentially create the fissile material for atomic bombs.

Iran says it wants to refine uranium only as an alternative source of electricity so it can export more of its oil and gas.

Six world powers agreed last week to draft a third round of U.N. sanctions unless reports by the IAEA and the EU's top diplomat due in mid-November indicate Tehran has moved toward full cooperation with transparency and suspension demands.

Iran long blocked IAEA inquiries into its efforts to build P-2 centrifuges, which can refine uranium 2-3 times as fast as the 1970s P-1 model it has used to start making nuclear fuel.

P-2 development sites have been off limits to the IAEA.

To help verify whether Iran's nuclear aims are peaceful or not, the IAEA has also sought detail on what Tehran did with centrifuge materials obtained from the former nuclear smuggling network of Pakistan's A Q Khan.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday said Iran's nuclear programme was irreversible and insisted Tehran had 3,000 centrifuges in its underground Natanz plant.

Western experts say 3,000 machines running smoothly for long periods at optimal supersonic speed could enrich uranium for an atomic bomb in about a year, if Iran wanted, and form the basis for ''industrial-scale'' nuclear fuel production.

But while diplomats and analysts say Iran now appears to have nearly 3,000 installed, they see no evidence that they are being run together or all being fed with uranium for enrichment.

The pending IAEA report will shed light on Iran's progress.


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