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UN Nuclear Chief: Iran Talks Make Slow Progress


The head of the United Nations nuclear agency says talks between Iran and world powers on Iran's nuclear program could still produce a deal, after discussions were stalled much of Tuesday.

Diplomats from Iran, Russia, France, and the United States reconvened at the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna late Tuesday. Talks stalled earlier in the day, after Iran expressed resistance to France's proposed role in a proposal that would have Iran ship uranium to Russia and France for conversion to reactor fuel.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said Tuesday that progress was "slower than expected" and that technical issues and "confidence-building guarantees" still needed to be analyzed. He told reporters that diplomats spent the day in bilateral and trilateral consultations, and that talks would continue on Wednesday.

A U.S. National Security Council spokesman (Mike Hammer) said the U.S. and Iranian delegations held separate discussions on the proposed uranium enrichment deal, under the auspices of the IAEA.

Tuesday's postponement came after Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said in Tehran that France is not needed in any deal concerning Iran's nuclear program. He and other Iranian officials accused France of failing to deliver nuclear supplies in the past.

A diplomat familiar with the Vienna talks says the parties now are considering a compromise deal between Russia and Iran. It would allow Russia to sub-contract enrichment work to France, thereby meeting Tehran's demand to avoid direct dealings with Paris.

A French foreign ministry spokesman, Bernard Valero, said France is participating in the Vienna nuclear talks, despite Tehran's comments.

Another diplomat says there are other issues with the uranium enrichment deal that needed to be worked through.

The enrichment deal would be aimed at easing Western concerns that Iranian uranium enrichment activities are aimed at developing nuclear weapons.


The United Nations Security Council has imposed three sets of sanctions on Iran for its refusal to halt its enrichment activities.

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