‘Chance to move from sanctions to process of building trust’

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, has called upon Iran to avoid becoming a deal-breaker and permanently liberate itself from the threat of sanctions posed by global powers.

"It is a unique opportunity to move from sanctions and confrontation to the process of building...trust," Mr. ElBaradei, who relinquishes office on December 1, said in Berlin. The IAEA chief was referring to the draft agreement that he issued last month in Vienna to Iran and its three interlocutors - the United States, Russia and France.

The IAEA proposal envisaged the transfer of a bulk of Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium to Russia for enrichment to around 20 per cent. Russia, in turn, would send the material to France for fabrication into metal fuel rods for use in a Tehran reactor engaged in producing medical isotopes to fight cancer.

"I believe frankly the ball is very much in the Iranian court," Mr. ElBaradei observed. As Mr. ElBaradei spoke, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany met in Brussels. They considered their response to the latest position adopted by Iran, that the nuclear swap covering the supply of fuel for the Tehran reactor and its own locally enriched uranium would take place on Iranian soil.

AFP quoted a European Union official as saying that the six countries - the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany - did not discuss any further specific sanctions against Iran. A statement issued at the end of the meeting said: "Iran has not responded positively to the IAEA proposed agreement for the provision of nuclear fuel for its Tehran research reactor. Iran has not engaged in an intensified dialogue and in particular has not accepted to have a new meeting."

The meeting in Brussels followed observations by U.S. President Barack Obama that world powers could have a package of measures against Iran "within weeks."

Notwithstanding Mr. Obama's remarks, divisions among global powers on the imposition of fresh sanctions against Tehran have been evident.

Russia has been quick to point out that a final response from Iran on the IAEA proposal is still awaited. "As far as we know, there has so far been no final official answer from Tehran," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said in a statement.

China, on its part, has emphasised persistence on dialogue with Iran.

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