Iran hints it could consider wider nuclear inspections

Reuters

GENEVA, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Iran suggested it was ready toaddress calls to give the U.N. atomic watchdog wider inspectionpowers as part of Tehran's proposals to resolve a decade-oldnuclear dispute with the West.

The comments from Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister AbbasAraqchi appeared to be the first specific indication of whatconcessions Tehran might be prepared to make in return for theremoval of sanctions hurting its oil-dependent economy.

Iran presented a three-phase plan for ending the standoffover its nuclear programme during the first day of an Oct. 15-16meeting with six world powers in Geneva on Tuesday. The talkswere due to resume later on Wednesday.

Iran did not give details of its proposal On Tuesday, butsaid it included monitoring by the International Atomic EnergyAgency (IAEA), the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear body whichregularly inspects declared Iranian facilities.

Iran's official IRNA news agency asked Araqchi about theissues of uranium enrichment and the so-called AdditionalProtocol to Iran's agreement with the IAEA.

"Neither of these issues are within the first step (of theIranian proposal) but form part of our last steps," he repliedwithout going into further details, in comments reported onWednesday.

The Additional Protocol allows unannounced inspectionsoutside of declared nuclear sites and it is seen as a vital toolat the IAEA's disposal to make sure that a country does not haveany hidden nuclear work.

The world powers have long demanded that Iran implement theprotocol. Iran says it is voluntary.

The powers - the United States, France, Germany, Britain,China and Russia - also want Iran to scale back its uraniumenrichment programme and suspend higher-level activity.

Refined uranium can be used to fuel nuclear power plants,Iran's stated aim, but can also provide the fissile core of anuclear bomb if processed further, which the West fears may beTehran's ultimate goal.

Western diplomats stress they want Tehran to back up itsnewly conciliatory language with concrete actions.

Both sides are trying to dampen expectations of any rapidbreakthrough at the two-day meeting, the first to be held sincePresident Hassan Rouhani took office, promising conciliationover confrontation in Iran's relations with the world.

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