The head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, is seeking final agreement with Iran on its nuclear enrichment by a Friday deadline. The US, France, and other Western nations are hopeful.
The head of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) presented a draft agreement aimed at finally ending international tension over Iran’s nuclear programme on Wednesday after three days of intense talks in Vienna between negotiators from three world powers and Iran. The draft has now been sent to Russia, France, the United States and Iran for final approval by a Friday deadline.
“I have circulated a draft agreement that reflects, in my judgment, a balanced approach on how to move forward,” IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei told reporters after negotiations on Wednesday at the UN nuclear watchdog’s headquarters in Vienna.
ElBaradei expressed the hope that the draft could break through months of deadlock over Iran’s enrichment programme, which Western powers fear could pave the way toward Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, but which Tehran insists is for civilian energy purposes only. “This agreement could open the way for a complete normalisation of relations between Iran and the international community,” ElBaradei said.
Throughout the latest round of talks, Iranian representatives have been accommodating, but non-committal. “We have to thoroughly study this text and ... come back and reflect our opinion and suggestions or comments in order to have an amicable solution at the end of the day,” said Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's IAEA ambassador, adding: “We welcome this event, we are fully cooperating.”
The IAEA proposal includes the stipulation that Iran would send some 75 percent of its low-enriched uranium to Russia and later France for further enrichment into fuel, in accordance with a tentative agreement struck in Geneva on Oct. 1.
“This is an important point because it means that large quantities of low-enriched uranium will be leaving Iranian territory to be further enriched for civilian purposes,” says FRANCE 24 correspondent Maurin Picard, reporting from Vienna. “This reduces, in theory, the chances of Iran collecting enough fuel to produce nuclear weapons.”
While the current draft calls for France to receive a portion of the Iranian stockpile, Tehran has in the past made clear it did not want France to be part of a deal, preferring instead to ship its low-enriched uranium to Russia. The IAEA reportedly included a compromise on this point, calling for Iran to sign an agreement on further processing with Russia, which would then sub-contract part of the work to France.
France’s nuclear negotiator expressed optimism that the draft deal could form the foundation for building a lasting agreement. “We have a very decent proposal on the table,” said Jacques Audibert, director for strategic affairs at the French Foreign Ministry, after attending the meeting. Audibert said that, while progress was being made “step by step”, hopes were high that Iranian representatives would sign on to the draft by Friday’s deadline.
Date created : 2009-10-22