Monday, 6 December 2010

Iran in talks with UN about its nuclear programme

Iran and key world powers have begun talks about Tehran's nuclear programme. On Sunday 5th November, Iran delivered its first raw uranium and said it would go into the discussions with “strength and power”.

The West fears that Iran may be gearing its programme for production of nuclear arms, however, Tehran maintains that its enrichment activities are purely for peaceful purposes. Speaking about the meeting in Geneva, Iran's nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, said the meeting was for the benefit of the other countries, not Iran.

"We want to create a graceful solution out of the political deadlock for those who have pressurised us," said Salehi.

Iran's main nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, is meeting EU foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, and senior officials from the five members of the UN Security Council – US, Russia, China, France, Britain – and Germany.

The talks, held near the Swiss mission to the UN, are expected to last two days. But experts say that Iran is unlikely to agree to suspend its enrichment programme as insisted on by the Security Council.

Iran's announcement in advance of the talks, that it is now able to produce its own yellowcake, crushed uranium ore which is turned into a gas for enrichment, has given it a new confidence that it can ride out sanctions.

The last talks, in October 2009, saw a breakthrough as Iran agreed to export low-enriched uranium for processing abroad but then stipulated new conditions and reneged on the deal. The UN Security Council has said that until Iran's intentions for its nuclear programme are clearly established, that it should cease its enrichment activities.

Iran is currently under four sets of UN sanctions due to its disregard for Security Council's calls to suspend its uranium enrichment. The latest sanctions, adopted on 9th June, include a ban on business with Iranian banks and insurance companies and steps to prevent foreign investment in the country's oil and gas sector.

Iran has countered Western fears by saying that as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it has the right to enrich uranium for fuel utilised for civil nuclear power. Tensions over the nuclear issue reached their peak when one of Iran's top nuclear scientists was killed in a car bomb on Monday 29th November. Iran accused Western powers of masterminding the attack.

Enriched uranium can be used for fuel in reactors or made into nuclear bombs. Iran's announcement that it has produced its first domestically manufactured uranium yellowcake was no surprise according to White House National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer.

"However... this calls into further question Iran's intentions and raises additional concerns at a time when Iran needs to address the concerns of the international community," he added.

Source: BBC News

For more news and expert analysis about Iran, please see Iran Strategic Focus.

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