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October 21, 2009

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Iran objects to French in nuclear discussions

TALKS meant to persuade Iran to send most of its enriched uranium abroad - and thus delay its potential to make a nuclear weapon - bogged down yesterday over fierce Iranian resistance to French participation, diplomats said.

Yesterday was the second day of talks in the Austrian capital between Iran and the United States, Russia and France over Iranís nuclear program. But discussions were delayed at least two hours in an attempt to resolve the impasse over the French.

Tehran says it needs enriched uranium for nuclear fuel but the US and other nations fear that could be used to make weapons. The US says Iran is one to six years away from being able to do so.

Iran had signaled earlier that it might not meet Western demands for a deal under which it would ship most of its enriched material out of the country.

But a more immediate problem yesterday appeared to be Iranian insistence that France be excluded from any participation in plans to turn the enriched material into fuel for Tehranís research reactor, the diplomats told The Associated Press.

One diplomat ó who spoke anonymously ó suggested the talks could fail unless the problem was resolved.

Iran, which holds a 10-percent share in the Eurodif nuclear plant in France, came to the talks vociferously critical of the French government for withholding enriched uranium from that facility. Areva, the state-run French nuclear company, has described Iran as a ìsleeping partner? in Eurodif.

Iran is under three sets of United Nations Security Council sanctions for defying demands that it freeze uranium enrichment. The sanctions include embargoes on all shipments of sensitive nuclear materials or technology.

In Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki downplayed the problem.

ìThere are side issues ... with France,? he said. ìWe will talk about it when the time is right.?


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