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World powers turn up heat on Iran

Irans President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaking in New York  25/9/09
Iran insists its nuclear programme is for peaceful energy purposes

World powers have increased pressure on Iran, urging the country to reveal the nature of its nuclear programme during six-party talks in Geneva on Thursday.

A spokesman for the German chancellor said Iran was "comprehensively failing to co-operate".

The International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran was the wrong side of the law in hiding a second uranium plant.

Tehran revealed the existence of the previously secret site, partially built into a mountain, last week.

"Iran was supposed to inform us on the day it was decided to construct the facility. They have not done that," Mohamed El Baradei, the head of the IAEA, told CNN-IBN Television.

Negotiations

Iran has said that it will allow IAEA inspectors in to view the site, thought to be near Qom, but has not said when the inspections can take place.


Iran was supposed to inform us on the day it was decided to construct the facility. They have not done that

Mohamed El Baradei
IAEA

Iranian representatives will meet on Thursday for talks with the five permanent Security Council seat holders - the UK, China, France, Russia and the US - plus Germany - the so-called P+1.

The US and its allies are contemplating tightening sanctions against the country. The UN Security Council has so far imposed three sets of sanctions against Iran over its refusal to freeze its nuclear programme.

Washington has signalled that it is willing to hold rare face-to-face talks with Iran.

A senior US official said that America was focused on engagement not sanctions.

But, says the BBC's Jonathan Beale, at the same time US diplomats are making clear that these talks cannot be open-ended.

The threat of sanctions has not gone away - and US diplomats are actively considering what further pressure might be applied.

But President Obama has long advocated talking to Tehran and first wants to see whether diplomacy can work.

Pressure

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in comments quoted by the Irna news agency, said he saw the discussions as both an opportunity and a test.

ANALYSIS
Paul Reynolds
Paul Reynolds
BBC News, London
Western diplomats regard this meeting as crucial in determining whether Iran will negotiate on its nuclear programme.

If there is no progress, consideration will be given to further sanctions and if, by the end of the year, there is still deadlock, then according to one diplomat, "it will be impossible to say that there is any more that diplomacy can do and we will be in a dangerous place". That, in plain language, is a reference to the possibility that Israel might thereafter decide to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.

The six countries negotiating with Iran will remind it of the freeze-freeze concept as a way of unblocking the impasse.

Under this, Iran would not add to the centrifuges it has already installed but would go on enriching uranium with its current machinery and the six would not press for further sanctions while enforcing those already in place. Talks would follow.

However, there is little optimism about the chances of a breakthrough. Any new sanctions would probably be aimed at Iran's energy and financial sectors. It remains to be seen how far these might go and who agrees to put them into force.

He said the meeting represented an "exceptional opportunity for [Western countries] to change their situation in the world and correct their way of dealing with nations".

In an apparent reference to US President Barack Obama, he added: "These talks could be a test to verify whether some governments are determined to follow up the slogan of change".

In Washington, a US state department spokesman said he hoped the session would pave the way for further discussions with Iran.

"We're not going to make a snap judgement on Thursday. We're going to see how that meeting goes, evaluate the willingness of Iran to engage on these issues," PJ Crowley said.

Iran insists that all its nuclear facilities are for peaceful energy purposes and rejects accusations from the US and others that it is seeking a nuclear weapon.

Russia recently signalled it might be prepared to soften its opposition to further sanctions.

China, which is also a permanent Security Council member, has said such pressure would not be effective.



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