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Iran nuclear work unaffected by sanctions: IAEA chief
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) Nov 20, 2012


World powers to mull improving Iran offer: diplomats
Brussels (AFP) Nov 20, 2012 - Six world powers will discuss on Wednesday in Brussels making a "more creative" and sweetened offer to persuade Iran to scale back its controversial nuclear programme, diplomats said.

The gathering of the P5+1 -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States, and Germany -- will "see if there are ways on which we can improve on the offer (rejected in June in talks in Moscow) to Iran", one senior Western envoy said Tuesday.

"We want to try to give Iran incentives to meet its obligations, but Iran will also have to take steps as well. We will see what they are willing to do," the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

"It is looking to see what we can do to help bring Iran back to the negotiating table to negotiate seriously ... There is the pressure side of it, but we also want to see what it is we can do to bring them back to the negotiating table."

In high-level talks in May in Baghdad the P5+1 made an offer to Iran, calling on it to suspend some activities, close its most controversial nuclear facility and ship abroad fissile material.

Many in the international community suspect that Iran's growing civilian nuclear programme masks a covert attempt to develop nuclear weapons, something vehemently denied by Iran.

Iran rejected the proposals in June since the six powers stopped short of offering significant and immediate enough relief from sanctions that have started to hit the Iranian economy hard in recent months.

Diplomatic efforts were then put on hold during campaigning for the US presidential election, won on November 6 by Barack Obama, and diplomats and experts say they expect a new round of talks with Iran early next year or perhaps sooner.

"I think most parties are coming to the table with the realisation that we have to consider what is on offer I think we have realised that with what was on offer, and what Iran was prepared to accept, there was no meaningful middle ground," a second Western envoy told AFP.

"We need to find that middle ground I think that everyone is coming in with their eyes open, I think the (six powers) are realising that they have to do something more creative."

Wednesday's talks, hosted by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, are due to start around 9:00 am (0800 GMT) and last several hours, officials said.

Multiple rounds of international sanctions are failing to have any effect on Iran's controversial nuclear programme, the head of the UN atomic agency said on Tuesday.

"We are verifying the activities at the nuclear sites in Iran and we do not see any effect," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Yukiya Amano said in Paris.

"They are for example producing enriched uranium up to five percent and 20 percent with a quite constant pace."

Uranium enrichment lies at the heart of the international community's concerns about Iran's nuclear programme, since the material produced can be used not only for peaceful purposes -- Iran's stated intention -- but also, when further treated, for a nuclear bomb.

Enriched to five-percent purities, uranium can be used for power generation, and to 20 percent for medical purposes. But when further enriched, a relatively easy process, it can go in a weapon.

The UN Security Council has passed six resolutions calling on Iran to suspend all enrichment, passing four rounds of sanctions.

Amano's comments follow the release of the IAEA's latest report on Iran on Friday.

It said Tehran was on the threshold of being able to triple its monthly production of 20-percent-enriched uranium after completing the installation of machinery at its Fordo site, dug into a mountain near the holy city of Qom.

Amano also said that it was "difficult to predict" whether Iran and the IAEA will make progress in their next round of talks in Tehran on December 13 following a string of fruitless earlier meetings.

The talks are aimed at persuading Iran to respond to "overall, credible" claims set out in a major IAEA report a year ago that until 2003 and possibly since, Tehran conducted nuclear weapons research work.

On Wednesday in Brussels meanwhile, six world powers -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States, and Germany -- are due to hold their first talks since the US presidential election on November 6 ahead of a possible new round of talks with Iran, possibly before the end of the year.

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