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UN-Iran talks end without apparent breakthrough

Written by: Staff
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VIENNA, Apr 26 (Reuters) No apparent breakthrough was made at eleventh-hour talks between the U N nuclear watchdog and Iran today, 48 hours before the U N Security Council receives a report on Tehran's atomic programme.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) declined to comment. Iran's IAEA envoy Aliasghar Soltanieh told Reuters: ''It was a useful exchange of views on how to speed up the resolution of outstanding issues.'' He declined to say if progress was made.

Diplomats accredited to the IAEA said Iranian officials probably showed up too late for any answers they provided to decisively alter the IAEA report to be delivered to the Security Council on Friday.

The talks at the IAEA's Vienna headquarters took place two weeks after agency head Mohamed ElBaradei was rebuffed in Tehran over his requests that Iran ''pause'' its uranium enrichment drive and address world doubts about its nuclear intentions.

Western powers suspect Iran has secret plans to build an atomic bomb, while Tehran says its nuclear programme is only for power generation.

But the Western powers are deadlocked with Russia and China in the Security Council over whether and how fast to pursue sanctions on Iran.

WAR OF WORDS A war of words between Iran and the West has occurred in the countdown to ElBaradei's report, widely expected to judge Iran to have ignored a 30-day deadline set by the Security Council on March 29 to suspend all enrichment-related work.

Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of Iran's atomic energy programme, his deputy Mohammad Saeedi and Soltanieh met ElBaradei and his nuclear safeguards deputy, Olli Heinonen, for 90 minutes.

Iran has halted IAEA short-notice inspections since February and refused to answer questions about suspected undeclared nuclear work with possible military dimensions.

''There has been growing frustration in the agency about Tehran's behaviour as well as growing concern about the escalation (in this crisis),'' said one Western diplomat close to the IAEA, requesting anonymity.

Diplomats said ElBaradei had agreed to meet Aghazadeh in a bid to made headway on questions about Iran's nuclear activities that are still outstanding after three years of IAEA probing.

''But whatever he tells us at this late stage, there would be no time for inspectors to check and verify it before the report comes out,'' one diplomat said before the meeting.

Asked whether this could change the broad thrust of the report, the diplomat said: ''There seems no time for that now.'' ElBaradei has said that overall Iran has not proven it does not harbour a military nuclear programme at secret locations.

Tehran's halt to snap IAEA inspections in retaliation for Security Council intervention has magnified such concerns.

REUTERS SHB HT2322

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