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Oct 16, 2009

Iranian go-slow dims deal chances at Vienna atom talks

VIENNA (Reuters) – World powers will seek to finalize an agreement with Iran next week on processing its uranium abroad to help allay Western fears it is developing nuclear weapons.

But Iran has dampened Western expectations it is ready to seal the deal. “Time is on our side,” a senior Iranian official said. Tehran would send junior officials rather than its nuclear energy chief to the talks starting on Monday in Vienna, he said.

Oct 8, 2009

Struggle looms to build on Iranian nuclear deals

VIENNA (Reuters) – U.N. inspectors about to descend on a hitherto secret Iranian nuclear site may score a small victory for non-proliferation, but face a long, hard struggle to achieve full transparency in Tehran’s atomic ambitions.

After a seven-year standoff, Iran agreed at talks with six big powers last week to unveil a nuclear site detected by Western spies and to cut stocks of enriched uranium which are potentially useful for making nuclear weapons.

Oct 2, 2009

ElBaradei bound for Iran to pin down Geneva accord

VIENNA (Reuters) – The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog will head to Iran this weekend to pin down an Iranian pledge, made at talks with big powers on Thursday, to open a newly revealed uranium enrichment site to inspections. The Geneva meeting, which also yielded agreement on follow-up talks before the end of October, lowered tensions a notch in a protracted standoff over suspicions that Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons.

But Western officials said Iran should give access to the enrichment site quickly — within two weeks, some said — and go farther in gestures of transparency at the next talks to gain a longer respite from the threat of tougher U.N. sanctions.

Oct 2, 2009

What pitfalls lurk in Iran nuclear agreements?

Oct 2 (Reuters) – Here is a rundown of what was – and wasn’t – agreed at Geneva talks between Iran and six world powers on Oct. 1, and an examination of possible pitfalls.

WHAT THE TALKS FAILED TO ADDRESS

Iran gave no ground on the core issues of nuclear restraint and transparency in its protracted standoff with world powers, concerns they will pursue in another round of talks this month.

Tehran insisted on its right to a sovereign nuclear energy programme despite U.N. resolutions ordering it to suspend enrichment in exchange for trade benefits. It has even rejected a temporary freeze on expansion of enrichment capacity.

No progress was reported on IAEA demands that Iran allow unfettered access for its UN inspectors to check intelligence reports suggesting Tehran has researched ways to arm missiles with nuclear payloads. The IAEA also wants Iran to permit snap inspections beyond declared nuclear sites to defuse mistrust.



IAEA ACCESS TO NEWLY REVEALED NUCLEAR SITE

Iran promised to grant access for U.N. nuclear watchdog inspectors to a second uranium enrichment plant in the making after revealing its existence last week, 3 1/2 years after Western intelligence services said construction began.

PITFALLS

Iran did not commit to a timetable at the talks for baring the hidden second enrichment site to the IAEA, saying only that inspectors were "not far away" from being able to visit it.

It has yet to address IAEA demands not just for one-off access but round-the-clock surveillance, design documentation and contact with Iranian nuclear officials to question them about the plant’s origins and purpose.

The IAEA wants to verify the Qom-area plant was and will be designed only to enrich uranium only to low levels suitable for power plant fuel. The longer it takes to get inspectors into the site, the more Western powers will suspect Iran is using the hiatus to remove any indications of military nuclear intent.

IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei will go to Tehran this weekend to try to pin down a time frame for IAEA access. The IAEA has 24-hour monitoring of a larger enrichment complex at Natanz, which was also secret until Iranian opposition exiles exposed it in 2002.



SENDING IRAN’S ENRICHED URANIUM ABROAD

Iran agreed in principle to send low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Russia and France for further processing and then its return for use by a Tehran reactor, which is under regular IAEA monitoring, to produce medical isotopes.

PITFALLS

Iran has not confirmed Western accounts that it was expected to ship 1.2 of its total 1.5 metric tonnes of low-enriched uranium to Russia and China. The deal was in principle only without a guarantee Iran would follow through.

The uranium deal will mean little if Iran has clandestine supplies of enriched uranium too. Without wide-ranging snap inspections, the IAEA can’t verify the declared Natanz stockpile is all there is.



A SECOND MEETING BEFORE END OF OCTOBER

Merely agreeing to further talks was a relief for those who feared escalating confrontation following the revelation of the second enrichment site, underlining Iran’s defiance of U.N. resolutions demanding it suspend enrichment entirely.



(Editing by Janet McBride)



Sep 30, 2009

Iran broke law by not declaring atom site: ElBaradei

VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran broke a transparency law of the U.N. nuclear watchdog by failing to disclose much earlier a nuclear plant being built for uranium enrichment, agency director Mohamed ElBaradei said in a televised interview.

Iran reported the site to the International Atomic Energy Agency on September 21. Western powers said Tehran was forced to do so after learning they were about to discover a plant whose construction began 3-1/2 years ago.

Sep 29, 2009

Geneva talks on Iran may fizzle, more sanctions loom

GENEVA/VIENNA (Reuters) – World powers will bank on last week’s revelation of a second uranium enrichment plant in Iran for leverage in pushing Iran for nuclear restraint and transparency in rare talks in Geneva Thursday.

The disclosure of the plant tucked inside a hillside on an ex-missile base has hardened Western powers’ resolve to extract Iranian concessions now or resort to biting sanctions fast, and softened Russia’s outright opposition to harsher measures.

Sep 29, 2009

FACTBOX: Options for tougher sanctions against Iran

By Mark Heinrich

(Reuters) – Western powers angered over Iran’s belated disclosure of a second uranium enrichment plant will redouble efforts to slap harsher sanctions on Tehran if nuclear talks set for Thursday in Geneva prove fruitless.

But the six-power unity key to mustering truly tough U.N. Security Council sanctions envisaged by the United States, Britain, France and Germany remains elusive with Russia taking a wait-and-see stance and China again insisting on negotiations.

Sep 29, 2009

FACTBOX: Iran’s second nuclear enrichment plant

VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran has told the U.N. nuclear watchdog that it is building a second uranium enrichment plant, a disclosure Washington said was forced by Tehran’s realization that Western powers were about to blow the whistle on the site.

Here is a rundown of what is known about the nascent nuclear facility and what positions the key players have taken on it, based on U.S., British, French and U.N. diplomatic sources, Iranian officials and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

    • About Mark

      "I cover nuclear non-proliferation, disarmament and diplomacy from my base in Vienna, headquarters of the UN nuclear watchdog, and guide Reuters' global coverage of our nuclear file. My previous postings include Jerusalem covering the Middle East conflict, Zagreb during the Yugoslav conflict, with stints in wartime Sarajevo, Bosnia and Serbia, as well as Berlin at the time of the fall of the Wall and reunification of Germany. I also contributed to coverage of the 1991 Gulf War and aftermath as well as the Kosovo conflict, ran our file in Macedonia during an ethnic Albanian uprising, and served as a chief ..."
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