The United Nations nuclear watchdog is set to postpone moves to refer Iran to the UN Security Council over its nuclear programme. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which meets today, is thought to have taken word from Tehran that it expects to resume dialogue with the European Union as a sign of flexibility after months of refusals.
For more than three years the IAEA has been investigating Western allegations that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran insists the programme is for energy only, but admits keeping it secret for 18 years. Momentum towards fresh talks came after the EU made a major concession – dropping its demand that Iran mothball its Isfahan plant. Contact was cut off four months ago in protest at Iran ending its suspension of uranium processing. On Sunday, parliament voted to end co-operation with UN inspectors and press ahead with enrichment, if it is referred to the Security Council. But it looks as though envoys from Britain, France and Germany will meet Iranian officials next month. Talks are however likely to focus on a proposal to shift processed uranium to Russia for the next stage in the fuel cycle – enrichment – which can be used to make nuclear weapons. Since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took power earlier this year, Iran has adopted a less compromising position on its nuclear programme, which is popular with many people.