Doubts loom over nuclear agreement

Tehran refuses to abandon its 'right to enrich' uranium in fresh talks

Western powers began talks with Iran about its nuclear programme yesterday amid confusion as to whether a viable agreement could be reached following combative statements from Tehran.

Iranian officials appeared to rule out the main demand made by the West that enrichment of uranium should take place abroad and not in the Islamic Republic – a safeguard against the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad acquiring a nuclear arsenal.

Tehran had agreed in principle to having the uranium shipped out of the country to be turned into fuel rods and then sent back and there was speculation that the talks – being held in Vienna under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) – with the US, Russia and France would lead to the transfer of 85 per cent of its current stock.

However, a number of officials appeared in the Iranian media to challenge this. Abolfazl Zohrehvand, a senior aide to the country's leading nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, said enrichment to levels of five per cent would take place outside the country. He added: "The importance of this is that Iran will retain the techniques of enrichment .... And we will keep our sites and research centres."

The Iranian nuclear agency spokesman Ali Shirzadian stated if the talks "do not bring about the desired result", Tehran would continue its enrichment programme. "We will never abandon our right to enrich," he said.

Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the IAEA, shrugged off these rumblings, saying yesterday's talks in Vienna had got "off to a good start" and would continue today. But observers noted that Iran had only sent a lower-level technical delegation and not Mr Jalili, casting doubt on a final deal.

It was also not clear what impact the sudden announcement that Tehran's delegation would not deal directly with Paris would have on the tentative agreement for Iran to ship uranium to to France. State-run Iranian television stated that France had failed to deliver "nuclear materials" in the past and that Paris had "interfered" in attempts to improve relations with the IAEA.

The seemingly tougher Iranian stance came as Tehran accused Pakistan, the US and Britain of funding a Sunni militant group, Jundollah, which carried out a weekend suicide bombing attack that killed 42 people, including six senior officers in the Revolutionary Guards. Mohammed Ali Jafari, the Guards' commander-in-chief, said: "Behind this scene are the US and British intelligence apparatus, and there will be retaliatory measures to punish them. We have also got documents proving the involvement of the Pakistanis." The US and UK strenuously denied involvement.

Talks earlier this month in Geneva had led to hopes among Western diplomats that Iran would turn over more than 1,200kg of low-enriched uranium. The amount is viewed as significant as 1,000kg is the accepted threshold of the amount of low-enriched uranium needed to produce weapons-grade uranium.

US authorities have estimated that Iran would be in a position to produce nuclear weapons by 2015. If most of that stock is taken out of the country before being enriched, the argument goes, Tehran would not be in a position to manufacture weapons-grade uranium. However, David Albright of the International Institute of Strategic Studies, said: "It buys some time. But Iran could replace even 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium in about a year."

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
tech
Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Graduate BI Consultant (Business Intelligence) - London

£24000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Graduate BI Consultant (B...

Service Delivery Manager (Product Manager, Test and Deployment)

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager (Product Ma...

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: English Teachers with QTS nee...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week