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Iran deal still feasible: IAEA

As the board meeting opened on Monday, chief ElBaradei suggested the UNSC might not need to get involved.

india Updated: Mar 07, 2006 04:14 IST
Agencies
Agencies
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The head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency expressed cautious optimism on Monday on the chances of reaching an international agreement to defuse concerns about Iran's nuclear activities and make UN Security Council action unnecessary.

The International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-member board was not likely to discuss the Iran issue until Tuesday or Wednesday. But delegates said that whatever step the council might take would stop far short of sanctions.

But as the board meeting opened, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei suggested the council might not need to get involved. "I am still very much hopeful that in the next week an agreement could be reached," ElBaradei told reporters.

He was alluding to talks between Moscow and Tehran aimed at moving Iran's enrichment programme to Russia and possible further contacts between Iran and Europe.

ElBaradei did not elaborate. But diplomats said that recent talks have touched on the possibility of allowing Tehran to run a scaled-down uranium enrichment programme, despite its potential for misuse in building atomic weapons.

The Europeans and the United States have for years opposed allowing Iran any kind of enrichment capability — a stance that Russia, China and other influential nations have embraced.

Tehran has insisted on its right to conduct enrichment, saying it wants only to produce fuel for nuclear reactors that generate electricity. But enrichment also can create fissile material for warheads, and a growing number of nations share US fears that is Iran's true goal.

Russia recently has sought to persuade Iran to move its enrichment program to Russian territory, which would allow closer international monitoring.

But the US ambassador to the United Nations suggested Security Council action was necessary, saying there was an urgent need to confront Iran's "clear and unrelenting drive" for nuclear weapons.

"Iran must be made aware that if it continues down the path of international isolation, there will be tangible and painful consequences," John Bolton told a conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Sunday.

Israel's special forces are operating inside Iran in an "urgent" bid to locate its secret uranium enrichment facilities, a media report said. The Sunday Times quoted Israeli sources as saying that their forces are based in northern Iraq, where they are "guarded by Israeli soldiers with the approval of the Americans."

First Published: Mar 06, 2006 21:20 IST