UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei met with Iran's new negotiator in Vienna on Friday as the Islamic republic continues its brazen rhetoric. Tehran says it does not fear UN sanctions.
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has his hands full with Iran
The UN atomic watchdog agency, IAEA, got its first taste of the Iranian government under its new president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. On Friday, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei met Iran's new nuclear program director and negotiator Ali Larijani in Vienna to renew talks surrounding Iran's nuclear energy program that the West says is weapons-related.
Iran has defied the international community by resuming work on making power reactor fuel that could also be used to make nuclear weapons but insists that it wants to continue talks with the European Union on guaranteeing its atomic program is peaceful.
ElBaradei and Larijani will be discussing "issues related to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards inspections and the current state of play," spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said in confirming Friday's meeting.
EU's role brought into question
The EU-3's negotiations with Iran not to open the Isfahan facility were for nought. Earlier this month activity was restarted
Despite claims that they will continue negotiations with the EU-3 -- Britain, France and Germany -- Tehran has sent signals to the contrary as late as Thursday. Larijani had challenged the role of the EU-3 as the leaders of diplomatic efforts over the Iran's nuclear program.
"Based on what logic and agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency have the negotiations been limited and dependent on the three European countries?" Larijani asked on Iranian state television.
Larijani signaled that Iran may look towards widening involvement in the talks, saying that non-aligned countries had asked Iran to explain why the negotiations have only been with the EU-3.
The US viewed the suggestion with a large dose of skepticism, saying that the ploy was just an attempt by Tehran to avoid talks over the issue.
"This is a typical tactic for the Iranian government. They will come up with proposals like this to try and change the subject," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.
Past attempts by Germany and the West to hinder Iranian nuclear activities have been fruitless. Here, Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Hasan Rowhani (l) and German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer at a 2003 press conference
Iran has accused the three European states of damaging the diplomatic effort by demanding Iran abandon its work on the nuclear fuel cycle -- the focus of fears Iran could acquire the bomb -- even though fuel work is technically permitted by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The EU-3 countered Tehran's claims, saying Iran is to blame for the breakdown in the talks due to its decision earlier this month to resume uranium ore conversion work -- the first step in the ultra-sensitive enrichment process which had been suspended.
The IAEA board, which is to receive a report on Iran on September 3 from ElBaradei, also called on Tehran to reinstate the suspension. Iran has refused, and could face referral to the UN Security Council, which could impose international economic sanctions.
US and EU to make no early move
Russian President Vladimir Putin is currently opposed to economic sanctions against Tehran
Economic sanctions in the near term are improbable however. While waiting for the September 3 report and whether Iran adheres to that day's deadline, the United States and the European Union have decided not to seek an IAEA emergency meeting, diplomats said Thursday.
An emergency session of the International Atomic Energy Agency on September 6, which the United States was seeking and which could lead to the referral of Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions, is "not going to take place," a senior EU diplomat told AFP in Vienna where the IAEA is based.
The reason is clear. Russia, which has a large contract to build Iran's first nuclear reactor, had objected to holding such a special meeting ahead of a summit at United Nations headquarters in New York from September 14-16.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Russian President Vladimir Putin are to attend the summit and Russia "wanted to give room for what could happen in New York and not to miss an opportunity" for diplomacy, an EU diplomat said.
The diplomat was speaking about efforts to get Iran to resume both the fuel suspension and talks with the EU that focus on winning guarantees that Tehran will not make nuclear weapons.