Iran nuclear talks stall in Vienna

By Jessica Elgot, October 19, 2009
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The nuclear facility in the Iranian city of Qom

The nuclear facility in the Iranian city of Qom

New talks over Iran’s uranium enrichment programme have begun in Vienna, but diplomats are pessimistic about Iran keeping its promise to export 75 per cent of its uranium stock.

Today’s talks among the US, Russia, France and Iran were intended to discuss the technical process of moving the enriched uranium to Russia and France.

But now Iran has reportedly retracted its agreement, and is refusing to allow so much of its uranium stock to be exported to the two countries.

Tehran insists that it has a right to pursue a nuclear programme and that the enriched uranium will be used for scientific investigation and nuclear fuel.

The last negotiations with Iran were held with six states, including Britain and the US, (known as the E3+3) in Geneva last month.

There, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili tentatively agreed to open Iran’s controversial enrichment plant to UN inspectors within two weeks and to export much of the uranium it has already enriched.

If the deal remains in place, three-quarters of Iran’s enriched uranium stock could be transferred to Russia and France, where it could be processed further and then used as fuel in a Tehran reactor for medical research.

The processing taking place outside Iran, would enrich the uranium enough to use as fuel for a reactor, but not enough to use as a nuclear weapon.

Follow-up talks for the Geneva E3 + 3 meeting are scheduled for the end of this month, but will depend on the outcome of this week’s meetings in Vienna.

Tensions between Iran and the West have also increased this week after the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Muhammad Ali Jafari, blamed the US and Britain along with Pakistan for a suicide bombing that killed six of its commanders and 37 civilians. The attack was in a sports hall in Pishin, near the Pakistani boarder.

    Last updated: 4:30pm, October 19 2009