Iran Nuclear NewsDiplomats say IAEA chief urging more US flexibility on...

Diplomats say IAEA chief urging more US flexibility on Iran

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ImageAP: The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency urged Washington on Tuesday to show more sensitivity in dealing with Iran if it hopes to see Tehran make concessions on its nuclear program, diplomats said.

The Associated Press

By GEORGE JAHN

ImageVIENNA, Austria (AP) — The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency urged Washington on Tuesday to show more sensitivity in dealing with Iran if it hopes to see Tehran make concessions on its nuclear program, diplomats said.

The diplomats, speaking to The Associated Press after a meeting between IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei and Undersecretary of State John Rood, said the American diplomat made no commitments, but promised to take ElBaradei's concerns back to his superiors.

Rood, the top U.S. official on nuclear nonproliferation, declined to go into details of his discussions with ElBaradei beyond confirming that Iran and Syria were among the topics of the meeting.

But one diplomat, who agreed to discuss the substance of the confidential meeting only on condition of anonymity, said ElBaradei urged the U.S. to broaden its approach to Iran to address Tehran's economic and security concerns in exchange for nuclear concessions.

The diplomat also said Syria still has not given IAEA inspectors permission to examine the site of an alleged nuclear reactor destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in September — something Rood said Damascus needed to do.

"Obviously Syria has a lot of explaining to do," Rood said. Asked why the U.S. withheld until recently intelligence that could have helped the IAEA press its case with Syria, he said a "concern about the potential for a military conflict" prompted Washington to keep mum at first.

He was apparently alluding to post-airstrike tensions between Israel and Syria.

Iran is under three sets of relatively mild U.N. Security Council sanctions for its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment and meet other council demands meant to dispel suspicions that the Iranians are trying to develop nuclear weapons.

World powers agreed Friday to try luring Iran to the bargaining table again using a repackaged set of carrots to accompany the stick of U.N. sanctions. Diplomats said the offer contained no major new enticements, but was meant to remind Iran that talking is an option.

The central terms of a 2006 offer stand: Iran could trade away worrisome elements of its nuclear program for economic assistance and the possibility of better relations with the U.S. Iran rejected the proposal, saying it came with insulting strings attached, including a moratorium on uranium enrichment.

Iranian officials turned down the revamped proposal without seeing it. But diplomats told AP that the five permanent Security Council members plus Germany — the six powers behind the 2006 proposal — still planned to formally present it to Tehran.

Diplomats told AP the Islamic Republic was seeking direct contacts with at least some of the six world powers after years of inconclusive negotiations on the nuclear issue with their representative, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

The catch for Iran remains: It would have to suspend uranium enrichment before negotiations over possible rewards could begin. Enriched uranium can be used to produce nuclear warheads or to make fuel for nuclear reactors that generate electricity.

Iran insists its nuclear program is intended only to produce energy that might help the oil-exporting giant relieve internal demand for electricity. Doubters say Iran could use the aboveboard program as cover to build atomic bombs.

As part of its efforts to counter such a threat, the U.S. wants to build a missile defense system based in the Czech Republic and Poland. The plan has run into opposition from the Kremlin, which fears it is directed against Russia, and Poland is attaching conditions to its participation.

On Tuesday, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said his country would not agree to host a U.S. anti-missile base if Washington failed to satisfy Warsaw's demands for aid in upgrading Poland's army and air defense.

Rood said that "the i's have been dotted and the t's have been crossed" with the Czechs, who will host a radar base. He said he remained optimistic that differences with the Poles would be resolved.

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