Iran to brief UN on atomic research plan: diplomats

Date: 01-04-06

VIENNA (Reuters) - A delegation from Iran is expected to explain a decision to resume nuclear fuel research to the International Atomic Energy Agency in a meeting at IAEA headquarters on Thursday, diplomats close to the agency said.

They said Mohammad Mehdi Akhonzadeh, Vienna-based Iranian ambassador to the IAEA, met agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei on Wednesday but failed to provide technical details about Tehran's announcement on Tuesday of plans to restart the research drive.

Germany and France warned Iran against the planned end to a suspension of nuclear research and development work, saying this could endanger Iranian-EU talks designed to resolve a volatile stand-off over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

The West suspects that Iran, which calls for Israel's destruction, wants nuclear technology to build bombs. Iran says its atomic work aims solely to generate electricity and years of IAEA inquiries have found nothing to clearly disprove this.

Diplomats close to the IAEA said the Tehran delegation were to meet technical experts in its nuclear safeguards division to describe what the fresh research and development would entail.

"Iran needs to do this because if they are undoing parts of the suspension, the IAEA must be involved," said one diplomat.

The diplomat noted that equipment which presumably would be part of the research effort had IAEA seals on it that were applied as part of the agency's safeguards regime.

A European Union diplomat said Mohammad Saeedi, deputy director of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, would head the delegation and would meet ElBaradei. The IAEA could not confirm this. Iranian officials in Tehran were unavailable for comment.

Fresh research and development, shelved voluntarily by Iran two years ago to blunt international pressure over its atomic aspirations, may include the manufacture and assembly of centrifuges used for uranium enrichment, the most sensitive part of the nuclear fuel cycle.

It could also involve some small-scale enrichment tests.

Germany, France and Britain are leading an EU effort to find a compromise that would allow Iran to develop a domestic nuclear power capacity without atomic weapons.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said Iran's announcement defied demands by the IAEA's 35-nation board and undermined a dialogue with the EU revived in Vienna on December 21, and due to resume later this month.



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