UN atomic agency says no date set for fresh Iran talks

SYDNEY Thu Oct 4, 2012 5:49am EDT

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SYDNEY Oct 4 (Reuters) - The U.N. atomic agency has yet to agree a date for further talks with Iran and has little hope for a speedy resolution to a standoff with Tehran over its nuclear programme, the head of the nuclear watchdog said on Thursday.

Efforts by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to engage with Iran over suspicions it has been conducting research into developing nuclear weapons have stalled and a hoped for meeting this month would not be possible, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano told reporters following an address in Sydney.

"We are committed for dialogue and we are ready to have a meeting at an early date but the fact is, that as of today, no specific date is decided for a meeting," Amano said.

Any meeting would take at least a month to organise, he said, adding he saw no sign a resolution was near.

"We need to see how the dialogue will be when we meet. But it took almost one year and we haven't produced any concrete results so therefore we don't have the reason to believe overnight everything would change - I don't have that indication either."

The six countries involved in discussions over Iran's programme have held three rounds of talks with Tehran this year without visible progress. A U.S. official voiced hope last week for a fourth round "in the not too distant future".

Israel, Iran's arch foe, says Tehran is seeking a nuclear weapons capability and last week warned the Islamic state will be on the brink of developing a nuclear weapon by mid-2013.

But Western experts believe Iran is still a few years away from being able to assemble a nuclear-armed missile.

Last month, Iran accused the IAEA of passing on confidential details of its atomic work to Israel, and a military commander said Tehran may consider a pre-emptive strike on the Jewish state if it looked set to attack.

Iran, one of the world's largest oil producers, says its nuclear programme is aimed at producing electricity, not making nuclear bombs.

Amano said the agency had "no particular" new information on Iran's programme since November when it released a trove of intelligence on past and possibly continuing efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

"The fact is Iran continues to enrich uranium...contrary to the U.N. Security Council resolution," Amano said.

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