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IAEA sees Iran rejoining nuclear talks Russia, other countries pressuring Islamic republic, ElBaradei says

Russia, other countries pressuring Islamic republic, ElBaradei says

MOSCOW

is likely to resume negotiations over its nuclear program within a month, as Russia and other countries pressure the Islamic republic's new leaders to return to the bargaining table, said Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"I hope it's a hiccup we have seen recently with the negotiations breaking down, that we will be able to bring the parties back to the negotiation table," Mr. ElBaradei said during a visit to Moscow.

Talks between Iran and the so-called EU3 group of European countries -- Germany, France and Britain -- broke down in August when Iran restarted its gas centrifuges, which can produce weapons-grade enriched uranium.

Iran says it only intends to manufacture low-grade uranium to fuel nuclear reactors, but the United States and other countries have expressed fears that the centrifuges will make bomb materials.

Until the Iranians give better reassurances, Mr. ElBaradei said, it's impossible to say their intentions are good.

"Before we resolve these issues, we cannot say that the Iran nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes," he said.

Mr. ElBaradei also hinted that an unnamed third country might provide a solution to the impasse.

"We need a third party to provide a face-saving solution," he said.

The IAEA director didn't name the third party or describe the solution he envisioned, but Reuters News Agency quoted unnamed European diplomats saying it's a South African plan that would allow Tehran to import uranium, convert it into uranium gas, and export the finished product.

That might give Iran the feeling that it's participating in the nuclear industry without giving the country the ingredients for a weapon.

Russia has also got involved in the push to resolve Iran's situation, Mr. ElBaradei said.

"A number of countries including Russia are heavily engaged in making sure that negotiations resume."

Russia's involvement in the delicate manoeuvrings around Iran's nuclear ambitions has not always been applauded by the international community.

This week, the United States called on governments to stop co-operating with Iran on nuclear projects, because of the IAEA's recent conclusion that Tehran isn't obeying the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

So far, however, Russia has refused to stop helping Iran build a nuclear reactor.

During a luncheon at a hotel ballroom in downtown Moscow, Mr. ElBaradei was asked whether he supported the U.S. initiative.

"I yield to the wisdom of member states," he said, with a smile.

The United States has also been pushing for the matter of Iran's nuclear program to be referred to the United Nations Security Council, which would have the power to take action against the country for breaking international laws.

But Alexander Rumyantsev, the head of Russia's Federal Nuclear Energy Agency, said yesterday that such a referral should not be necessary.

"Everything should be decided through a negotiating process, which is under way within the framework of the IAEA," Mr. Rumyantsev told Russia's Interfax news agency.

Mr. ElBaradei also warned that the Security Council should only be a "court of last resort," and that recent experience with sanctions in Iraq showed that sanctions can be ineffective when they hurt a country's people but not its leaders.

"In the case of Iraq, it [the Security Council] overreacted," Mr. ElBaradei said. "It led to egregious human-rights violations."

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