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Iran Nuclear Talks Continue Despite Iran's Assertion that 'France Not Needed'


France said Tuesday that talks on Iran's nuclear program were continuing in Vienna, despite Tehran's assertion that French participation is unnecessary.

Day two of international talks in Vienna on Iran's nuclear program was stalled after Iran indicated that it did not want French participation in negotiations on a proposal to have Iran ship uranium to Russia and France for conversion to reactor fuel.

Hosted by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the talks bring together representatives from Iran, Russia, France, the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA.

Under a tentative agreement reached in Geneva earlier this month, Iran would ship its uranium to Russia for further enrichment and then to France to convert the material into metal rods. The rods would then be shipped back to Tehran for use in a research reactor.

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But in remarks to reporters, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said that Tehran was not interested in France's participation.

Mottaki said that it was normal that technical discussions go ahead with the United States and Russia because they had agreed to cooperate in supplying nuclear fuel. But, he said, France was not needed because Iran did not need very much fuel.

Iranian media offered various explanations for Tehran's reluctance to have France at the talks, including claims that France had obstructed negotiations between the IAEA and Iran.

A French Foreign Ministry spokesman said that despite the delay on Tuesday, the talks were continuing and that France was participating.

However, a diplomat familiar with the Vienna talks said the parties are considering a compromise deal between Russia and Iran that would allow Moscow to sub-contract enrichment work to France, enabling Tehran to avoid direct dealings with Paris.

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful uses. But western nations warn that Tehran is trying to build a nuclear weapon. Observers are hoping that, if successful, the talks will lead to a breakthrough in the stalemate over Iran's nuclear program.