IAEA delegation to discuss Iran’s enrichment program on Tuesday

TEHRAN, October 8 (RIA Novosti) – A delegation from the United Nations nuclear watchdog will arrive in Tehran on Tuesday to continue talks on Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities, an Iranian official said.

The delegation, led by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Deputy Director General Olli Heinonen, will participate in the second round of negotiations on Iran’s gas centrifuges, used to enrich uranium. The previous round of centrifuge talks was held in the Iranian capital on September 24-25.

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Iran currently has around 3,000 enrichment centrifuges, and the country’s leaders previously said they intended to install 50,000 at the Natanz nuclear research center, to make the country independent of nuclear fuel imports.

Iran has defied three consecutive UN resolutions against its nuclear program since last year and has called two previously imposed rounds of sanctions illegal. The country’s leadership rejects Western allegations that the program is geared towards creating atomic weapons, and has insisted that uranium enrichment will continue.

Iran’s president said on Friday that the country would welcome foreign investment in its nuclear industry, but will not abandon its uranium enrichment program.

“We are ready for cooperation and joint investment [in the nuclear sphere], but this has nothing to do with Iran’s nuclear fuel cycle,” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said.

He said Iran’s right to pursue nuclear energy programs remains non-negotiable.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the IAEA, said last Thursday that the international community should give Iran more time to prove that its nuclear program has exclusively civilian goals.

“This situation, which might continue for two or three months, is an investment in peace,” ElBaradei said in an interview with Egyptian daily al-Ahram.

In mid-September the six countries involved in talks to persuade Iran to drop uranium enrichment delayed a vote on a new set of sanctions against the Islamic Republic, set to be held by November. The vote was postponed pending reports from the IAEA, and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

The six nations involved in the talks are China, the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. The U.S. and France have urged tougher penalties against Iran.

Since talks early this summer between Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani and the head of the UN nuclear watchdog, Tehran has allowed two inspections of its 40-MW heavy water nuclear reactor in Arak, potentially capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium. Iran had earlier refused to grant access to the site following the second set of international sanctions in March.