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Iran begins processing second batch of uranium

Atul Aneja

Teheran move may complicate the issue at Vienna meet

DUBAI: As the countdown for the crucial nuclear talks in Vienna begins, Iran has said that it had started processing a second batch of uranium at its facility in Isfahan.

"We had informed the U.N. watchdog that Iran wanted to process a new batch of uranium and we have started it," the semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Iran's chief nuclear negotiation Al Larijani as saying.

Iran's decision to resume the initial phase of uranium enrichment in August halted its comprehensive dialogue with the European Union.

Iran subsequently said that it wished to resume talks with the E.U. Analysts point out that Iran's latest decision could complicate efforts to defuse tensions over its nuclear enrichment programme.

The United States has led an international campaign suggesting that Iran is seeking atomic weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear energy programme.

Nuclear feedstock

Prior to Mr. Larijani's statement, the Iranian English daily Teheran Times reported that Iran had informed the IAEA about its intent to carry out the enrichment of a second batch of uranium at Isfahan.

The daily, however, said the processing of around 50 tonnes of uranium would begin only on November 26 — a day after the conclusion of the two-day IAEA board members' meeting in Vienna.

Iran converts uranium into uranium hexafluoride gas at Isfahan, which is the feedstock for producing enriched uranium. Low enriched uranium is used for generating electricity, but the material can be used for weapons when enriched to a high degree of purity.

Meanwhile, diplomacy ahead of the IAEA meeting on November 24 has gathered momentum. Nicholas Burns, the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, was set to hold talks in London with officials from France, Britain and Germany.

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