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Page last updated at 13:44 GMT, Monday, 14 September 2009 14:44 UK

Iranians set for big powers talks

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Iran to take part in nuclear talks, but venue still unclear

Iran is to hold talks next month with the six world powers dealing with the crisis over its nuclear programme.

The talks are due to start on 1 October at an as yet undecided venue.

The US called it an "important first step", but questions remain over whether Tehran will directly address the issue of its nuclear programme.

The announcement comes as the UN nuclear watchdog formally endorsed its new director general, Yukiya Amano of Japan, at a conference in Vienna.

Mr Amano will replace Mohammed ElBaradei, who is stepping down after 12 years as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on 1 December.

Speaking to delegates after being sworn in, Mr Amano vowed to continue to pursue alleged abuses of nuclear technology - saying the world faces increasing risks of nuclear proliferation and terrorism.

"It is unlikely that this trend will ever be reversed, but rather it will continue to accelerate," the 62-year-old former Tokyo ambassador to the IAEA said.

One of the agency's toughest challenges has been its currently stalled six-year investigation into Iran's nuclear programme.

'Serious dialogue'

The 1 October meeting was agreed between European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili by telephone, Mr Solana's spokeswoman said.

ANALYSIS
Paul Reynolds, BBC News
By Paul Reynolds, BBC News
There is a risk that these talks with Iran might simply confirm differences over Iran's nuclear programme not narrow them. It is not even clear whether Iran's nuclear programme will even be discussed.

The US had said it would raise the issue in any discussions but Iran has said the question is closed. Iran wants the talks to concentrate on a letter it sent the countries negotiating with it - the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - in which it offered talks on global issues. Obviously these countries have felt they must respond.

This is in line with President Obama's offer of an "extended hand" to Iran. The fear among Western diplomats, though, is that Iran is playing for time and trying to put off the possibility of further economic sanctions. The only potentially hopeful sign is that Iran is sending its chief nuclear negotiator.

Mr Solana has been representing the six powers - the UK, China, France, Russia and the US, the five permanent Security Council members, and Germany - in long-running efforts to tackle the issue.

Representatives of the six powers - who have offered diplomatic and economic incentives to Iran if it agrees to suspend uranium enrichment - are expected to be at the meeting.

"Iran is ready for a serious dialogue in October," Mr Jalili said.

US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said: "It's an important first step and we are hoping for the best."

But, says the BBC's Bethany Bell in Vienna, it is not clear whether the talks will be able to bridge the gap in the row about Tehran's nuclear work.

'Non-negotiable'

Iran has always insisted that its nuclear programme is for civilian purposes only.

It is under UN sanctions for refusing to end uranium enrichment activities, and is widely suspected of seeking to develop the technology to build a nuclear weapon.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sunday that Iran is ready to discuss global issues with world powers, but that its nuclear programme was non-negotiable.

Isfahan nuclear plant, file pic
Iran insists its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes

This line was repeated by Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi on Monday: "The Iranian nation will not debate its right to have nuclear technology. But as mentioned in its proposed package one of the topics we will discuss relates to alleviating the concerns over the nuclear issue."

On 9 September, a five-page Iranian proposal was submitted to the group of six global powers negotiating over its nuclear enrichment programme.

In it, Tehran offers to hold "comprehensive, all-encompassing and constructive" negotiations on a range of security issues, including global nuclear disarmament.

But the document makes no mention of Iran's own nuclear programme.

Correspondents say the various parties involved are making their positions clear ahead of the UN General Assembly later this month.

US President Barack Obama has given Tehran until the end of September to respond to his overtures or face new sanctions.



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