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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Front of House Team Member

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This strategic outsourcing and energy se...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an I...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen