News / Middle East

    Iranian Foreign Minister Calls Talks With IAEA Chief "Constructive"

    Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaqi says discussions are continuing with the International Atomic Energy Agency over a stalled uranium swap deal with the West.  Mottaqi met Sunday with IAEA chief Yukiya Amano in Vienna.

    The meeting between Mottaqi and Amano appeared cordial and both men were smiling as they spoke to reporters after their talks. Neither of them, however, indicated that any progress had been made, and both stated simply that negotiations would continue.

    The Iranian foreign minister insisted both before and after the talks that a stalled nuclear fuel swap deal with the West, proposed last November, is still on the table. He stressed that his meeting with Mr. Amano was a follow-up to previous talks between them on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich.  He said Sunday's meeting was to include more precise and technical discussions regarding the (November) fuel swap deal.

    That deal, which Iran neither accepted nor officially rejected, is now in limbo.  Iran would have been required by the deal to ship more than 60 percent of its stockpile of low-grade uranium to France and Russia for further enrichment.

    Iran's atomic energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi says that Tehran needs the more highly enriched uranium to produce radioactive isotopes for medical purposes

    Iran insists that it will not accept the IAEA deal unless the fuel-swap is carried out on its own soil, simultaneously.  The United States, France and Russia consider Iran's counter-proposal unacceptable because it fails to allay Western suspicions that Tehran will use its remaining stockpile to build nuclear weapons.

    Both Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and its President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad say Tehran has no intention of building nuclear weapons, and that Islam forbids the use of such weapons.

    But Western analysts question Iran's motivation behind the construction of a secret enrichment facility near the city of Qom, revealed last September.  They also question Iran's need to build several more enrichment facilities, announced recently.

    Iranian leaders have sent mixed messages to the West in recent months, alternating between bellicose rhetoric and conciliatory language to indicate that they were willing to reach a deal over their contentious nuclear program.

    Iranian Revolutionary Guard commanders also waved the specter of Iranian military might, Sunday, firing what they called "smart" missiles, during the final day of military exercises near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

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