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Updated: October 20, 2009 20:58 IST

Vienna nuclear talks hit a snag over French role

Atul Aneja
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Frederic Mondoloni, head of the French delegation talks on his cell phone during a meeting of delegates from Iran, the U.S. Russia and France, on Tuesday at Vienna's International Center. Photo: AP
AP
Frederic Mondoloni, head of the French delegation talks on his cell phone during a meeting of delegates from Iran, the U.S. Russia and France, on Tuesday at Vienna's International Center. Photo: AP

Iran’s talks with the United States, Russia, France and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna have hit a snag over Tehran’s objections to France’s participation in an overseas arrangement to supply Iran with enriched uranium. Iran’s state-run Press TV said Tuesday’s talks in Vienna had been postponed to a later date after Iran called for France’s exclusion from a supply arrangement, citing Paris’ failure “to deliver nuclear materials in the past”.

The Associated Press pointed out in its report from Vienna that Iran holds a 10 per cent share in a Eurodif nuclear plant in France. Quoting an unnamed diplomat, the report said that Iran came to the talks vociferously critical of French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government for withholding enriched uranium from that facility.

It added that Areva, the state-run French nuclear company, has described Iran as a “sleeping partner” in Eurodif, which Tehran bought into more than three decades ago. Press TV said that on Tuesday morning IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei had handed over the draft of the deal, which excluded France as a potential supplier. Citing its sources, the channel said that “elimination of France from the deal’s draft is certain”.

In Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said that the IAEA had contacted some countries and the United States and Russia accepted to participate in the negotiations to supply enriched uranium. He added: “The negotiations will be conducted with these two countries in the presence of the agency [IAEA]. We do not need a lot of fuel and we do not need the presence of many countries. There is no need for France to be present.”

Mr. Mottaki said that Iran was looking for international guarantees over the supply of fuel enriched abroad to a higher level for its nuclear medicine facility in Tehran. During talks held earlier with global powers in Geneva on October 1, Iran had agreed in principle to transfer abroad, most of its domestically produced stock of uranium enriched to a less than 5 per cent level. In turn, it was to receive uranium refined abroad to a 19-20 per cent level for the Tehran reactor.

In Paris, the French Foreign Ministry spokesman said that there were “many technical parameters to take into account for the supply of nuclear fuel and we will see later which states will take part”. In Vienna unnamed diplomats told AFP that France was still on board in the talks.

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