U.N. Watchdog Reopens Iran Nuclear Talks

The International Atomic Energy Agency meets in Vienna on Iran's program for developing nuclear weapons and a Russian plan to oversee that the country develops nuclear power, without acquiring nuclear weapons. Greg Webb, editor for Global Security Newswire, has details on the talks.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

In Vienna today, the board of governors of the UN's nuclear watchdog agency meets, and top of its agenda is Iran and its nuclear ambitions. The board is expected to vote to delay referring Tehran's nuclear activities to the Security Council. That would offer more time to negotiate. Three European nations, Britain, France and Germany, have been negotiating with Iran for more than a year. They're currently considering a proposal to shift Iran's uranium enrichment operations to Russia. Greg Webb is editor for Global Security Newswire, a National Journal Group publication. He joins me now from Vienna.

Good morning.

Mr. GREG WEBB (Editor, Global Security Newswire): Good morning. How are you?

MONTAGNE: Fine, thank you. Tell us what that means, shifting operations to Russia?

Mr. WEBB: Well, the hope is that a resolution can be found in this crisis that will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon capability. And so the EU nations, with the US support, are hoping that Iran will agree to allow Russia to enrich uranium for it instead of Iran doing it itself, because uranium enrichment, while allowing the nation to make fuel for a nuclear power program, would give it the ability to make fuel for a nuclear weapon as well.

MONTAGNE: Besides Russia, there are also reports that China is playing a role in an effort to resolve all of this dispute. What do you know about that?

Mr. WEBB: China appears to have given its backing to this process, which is extremely important because here at the IAEA board in Vienna, China has strongly resisted the EU and US efforts to refer Iran to the Security Council. So now that this new process has China's backing and Russia's backing, if Iran were to pull out of it, to reject this offer, it would be much more likely that the matter could be referred to the Security Council because China and Russia would be more likely to support such a move.

MONTAGNE: Well, then what's likely to come out of today's meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency?

Mr. WEBB: Today and tomorrow, the agency's board will most likely express support for the European initiative and the possible talks early next month and to call on Iran to continue its recent efforts to provide more transparency about its program. Since a very hostile meeting in September here, Iran has allowed the agency to visit some sites that it had not been able to before in Iran. That has provided some more information, including the revelation that Iran received some information about how to design and make a nuclear warhead. So this is quite a big deal that came out about a week ago. So the bottom line is that China and Russia are more in the EU and US camp, and Iran will have to reckon with that.

MONTAGNE: Greg Webb is editor for Global Security Newswire. He is based in Vienna.

And thank you.

Mr. WEBB: Thank you.

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