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UN nuclear experts back in Iran to tackle tougher issues

04:08 PM Jun 01, 2019 | Free Press Journal Correspondant

Tehran: The UN atomic agency resumes talks in Tehran today to tackle allegations of past Iranian weapons work and discuss more practical steps to increase the transparency of the country’s nuclear drive.

The one-day encounter between Iran and the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency will build on a framework deal agreed in November that required Tehran to take six practical steps by next Tuesday.

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With completion of those measures — including a visit to the heavy water plant at the unfinished Arak reactor — negotiations on “more difficult things” are expected to begin, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano has said.

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Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi has said that, based on the IAEA’s assessment of progress, the scope of future cooperation will be decided.

He expressed hope that “the agency’s doubts have been removed.”

Led by chief inspector Tero Varjoranta, the IAEA team is to meet Iranian nuclear officials, led by Iran’s IAEA envoy, Reza Najafi.

Kamalvandi said the talks could be extended if there is major progress.

The six-step November deal was struck after two years and nearly a dozen rounds of talks. It is separate to the landmark nuclear agreement also reached in November with world powers that put temporary curbs on nuclear activities.

Implementation began on December 8 when IAEA inspectors visited Arak, whose small, unfinished heavy water reactor has been hit by a series of delays.

The site, which Iran insists is an integral part of its nuclear programme, is of international concern because Tehran could theoretically extract weapons-grade plutonium from its spent fuel if it also builds a reprocessing facility.

But Iranian atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi said earlier this week the reactor could be modified to produce less plutonium in order to “allay the worries.”

And he insisted that Iran did not intend to build a reprocessing plant.

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