(photo credit: AP [file])
Iranian and the UN nuclear watchdog officials began a third, final round of talks in Teheran on Monday aimed at resolving remaining questions on Iran's P-1 and P-2 centrifuges, a technology used to enrich uranium.
The Teheran talks are critical because they will be the basis for a progress report on Iran by the UN agency's chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, planned for mid November.
"In this new round of talks, we hope we'll be able to conclude our negotiations," Iranian state television quoted Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of the country's Atomic Energy Organization, as saying.
The discussions are the latest attempt by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency to address outstanding questions on the Iranian program which some Western countries believe masks nuclear weapons production but which Iran insists is focused on power generation.
IAEA's deputy chief Olli Heinonen heads the UN delegation, while Iran's is headed by Javad Vaeedi from the Supreme National Security Council, a security decision-making body that handles Iran's nuclear talks with the outside world.
Saeedi said the two previous rounds of talks with the IAEA were "comprehensive" and also "frank and explicit," and that Teheran was now prepared to answer remaining questions to "close the file" on its centrifuge technology.
Heinonen said Iran has had "good cooperation" with the UN agency in clearing up ambiguities over Teheran's centrifuge technology.
Neither official provided details.
Centrifuges are used in enriching uranium, a process that can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or the material for a warhead. P-2 centrifuges are more sophisticated, consume less electricity and produce more enriched uranium than their predecessors, the P-1 centrifuges.
Iran says its centrifuges used to enrich uranium are P-1 type, not the more advanced P-2. However, it has confirmed that it has conducted laboratory research on the advanced P-2 centrifuge.
In its report on the Teheran talks, state radio said Iran's cooperation with the IAEA represented "new steps toward building confidence" and would also undermine efforts by the United States and its allies to impose new UN sanctions against Teheran.
In September, ElBaradei praised Iran's cooperation with the agency so far, but urged Teheran to answer all questions - including those on reported experiments that link enrichment and missile technology - before the end of the year.
In fresh comments that may anger Washington, ElBaradei said Sunday that he had no evidence Iran was working actively to build nuclear weapons and expressed concern that escalating US rhetoric could bring disaster.
The United States, Britain and France are preparing to debate a third set of sanctions against the Islamic republic in response to Teheran's refusal to halt uranium enrichment. Iran has rejected two UN Security Council resolutions requiring it to halt its enrichment program.
Teheran claims it is too late to stop its nuclear program because it has already achieved proficiency in the cycle of nuclear fuel - from extracting uranium ore to enriching it. It also has vowed it will never give up its right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel.
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