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Nuclear powers meet Iran to defuse fuel fears

Talks in Vienna with Iran over sending its uranium to be enriched in France or Russia have had a mixed response.

The UN's nuclear watchdog claims they're going well, but Iranian state TV has announced that France will no longer be considered in the deal.

Western powers fear Tehran could use the uranium for weapons, so want it shipped abroad to be converted into fuel.

So far the Iranian delegation in Vienna has refused to communicate directly with the French representatives.

The French Foreign Ministry has issued a statement in which it said that it refuses to comment on this latest development until the talks conclude.

The talks started on Tuesday at 10am local time and are being conducted behind closed doors. The original proposal on the table meant that by the end of 2009, the first load of uranium bars was to be sent to Russia from Iran for enrichment, but not to the weapons grade. Later on it was supposed to be sent to France for the production of four fuel cells.

Now it looks possible that a third country could replace France, but it is also possible that these talks could collapse altogether.

On Monday, after 2.5 hours of deliberations, the IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said the talks were constructive and good.

According to international experts, the stockpile of nuclear fuel that is currently in Iran is enough to produce from one to two nuclear bombs if it is further enriched.

That is why the international community, the US, the EU and Israel are so focused on getting these stockpiles out of Iran. If the uranium is taken away, it will take at least a year for Iran to replace it.

If Iran agrees to a transfer of its nuclear fuel, there will be a deal from the international community to supply Iran with more fuel.

The talks in Vienna are the latest attempt by the international community to stop what many fear is Iran’s military nuclear program. The UN Security Council has already imposed three sets of sanctions against the country to no effect.

If these talks prove useless, Iran will be slapped with another set of sanctions, as the US insists, while Russia has consistently opposed any sanctions as being counterproductive.