Iran, IAEA Agree to Delay Meeting

A04142305.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- A planned meeting between the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO) Gholam Reza Aghazadeh and the UN nuclear agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei has been postponed “based on mutual agreement”, Iranian officials said.

IAEO said in a statement that the meeting, slated for Monday at the Vienna-based IAEA headquarters, was “postponed to an appropriate time”.

The Associated Press quoted a senior diplomat as saying that the IAEA head ElBaradei likely planned to use the meeting with Aghazadeh, to renew a request for more information on non-deviation of Tehran’s nuclear program from the peaceful path.

The diplomat said the meeting was also likely to have focused on Iran insistence on its legitimate right under international regulations to have uranium enrichment.

Last week, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that Iran was installing thousands of new uranium-enriching centrifuges and testing a much faster version of the device.

Ahmadinejad said scientists were putting 6,000 new centrifuges into place, about twice the current number, and testing a new home-made type of centrifuge that works five times faster.

One diplomat said the more advanced centrifuge appeared to allude to a type known as the IR-2, which the agency and Tehran said months ago that Iran had begun testing.

In the enrichment process, uranium gas is pumped into a series of centrifuges called “cascades.” The gas is spun at supersonic speeds to remove impurities and can produce nuclear fuel.

The Islamic Republic of Iran has time and again stressed that it needs the nuclear program for peaceful purposes, among them power generation for a growing number of population whose fossil fuels would eventually run out.

Iran says it plans to move toward large-scale uranium enrichment that ultimately will involve 54,000 centrifuges to meet its power supply needs.

On Sunday, Iranian foreign minister said the country will propose a package of solutions on its nuclear program in an upcoming meeting of permanent members of the Security Council and Germany (Group 5+1).

Mottaki said Iran has been preparing a proposal that will have more “convergence” with the West on the nuclear issue.

Mottaki did not give details on the proposal.

The UN Security Council has so far imposed three rounds of sanctions on Iran for refusing the Council’s demand to give up its right of uranium enrichment, a process needed for producing fuel for Iran’s under-construction power plants.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany will meet on April 16 in Shanghai to discuss whether to sweeten incentives they had offered Iran in 2006 to persuade it to give up its nuclear rights.

Iran, which says it wants nuclear technology to generate electricity, has so far ruled out halting or limiting its nuclear work in exchange for trade and other incentives, and says it will only negotiate with the UN nuclear watchdog.

The US is at loggerheads with Iran over the independent and home-grown nature of Tehran’s nuclear technology, which gives the Islamic Republic the potential to turn into a world power and set a paradigm for other third-world countries. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.

Washington’s push for additional UN penalties contradicted the recent report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran’s programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and similar reports by the IAEA head – one in November and the other one in February – which praised Iran’s truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities and announced settlement of outstanding issues with Tehran, any effort to impose further sanctions on Iran seemed to be completely irrational.

The February report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised Iran’s cooperation in clearing up all of the past questions over its nuclear program, vindicating Iran’s nuclear program and leaving no justification for any new UN sanctions.

Tehran says it never worked on atomic weapons and wants to enrich uranium merely for civilian purposes, including generation of electricity, a claim substantiated by the NIE and IAEA reports.

Iran has insisted it would continue enriching uranium because it needs to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it is building in the southwestern town of Darkhoveyn as well as its first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr.

Not only many Iranian officials, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but also many other world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports saying Iran had increased cooperation with the agency.

US President George W. Bush, who finished a tour of the Middle East in winter has called on his Arab allies to unite against Iran.

But hosting officials of the regional nations dismissed Bush’s allegations, describing Tehran as a good friend of their countries.

Bush’s attempt to rally international pressure against Iran has lost steam due to the growing international vigilance, specially following the latest IAEA and US intelligence reports.

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