Monday, November 29, 1999

Iran in talks with Brazil to resolve nuclear deadlock

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Talks seen as Iran's "last chance" to resolve its nuclear dispute with the West started in Tehran on Sunday between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Brazilian counterpart, state media reported.Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva along with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu are trying to persuade Iran to revisit a stalled U.N.-backed nuclear fuel swap deal to break a deadlock over the country's disputed nuclear activities."President Ahmadinejad and the Brazilian president have started the first round of talks over Iran's nuclear issue," state television reported.Western and Russian authorities have said Lula's trip was probably the last chance to avoid new U.N. sanctions against Iran after its refusal to halt its nuclear activities.A U.N.-backed deal offered Iran last October to ship 1,200 kg (2,646 lb) of its LEU -- enough for a single bomb if purified to a high enough level -- to Russia and France to make into fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor.Iran later said it would only swap its LEU for higher grade material and only on its own soil, conditions other parties in the deal said were unacceptable.Turkey and Brazil, both non-permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, have offered to mediate to find a resolution to the impasse at a time when world powers are in talks to impose a fourth round of U.N. sanctions on Iran.Iran, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, says its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful and not intended for military use as the West alleges.Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was expected to join Lula in Tehran, but cancelled his trip. Iran said Turkey was still part of the talks, adding that Tehran viewed the mediation positively.Lula arrived in Iran on Saturday to attend a meeting of Group 15 on Monday. Iran says leaders and top officials from 17 countries from Asia, Africa and South America will attend the meeting to develop economic cooperation among developing states.Iran started higher enrichment in February to create fuel for the research reactor itself, after the failure of talks with major powers over the nuclear swap. The step brings Iran's enrichment closer to levels needed for making weapons-grade material -- uranium refined to 90 percent purity.(Writing by Parisa Hafezi, Editing by Diana Abdallah)

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