MOSCOW, October 19 (RIA Novosti) - The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog said that Monday's talks between Iran and world powers on a new uranium enrichment deal have started positively.
The negotiations in Vienna between Iran, the United States, France and Russia are set to continue on Tuesday.
"We had this afternoon quite a constructive meeting. We're off to a good start. Most of the technical issues have been discussed," Mohamed ElBaradei, who heads the International Atomic Energy Agency, told reporters.
The talks were convened to discuss proposals for France and Russia to enrich uranium for Iran, to ease international suspicions of a covert Iranian atomic weapons program. Iran already produces low-enriched uranium (up to the 5% level), but says it wants to buy higher-enriched fuel (up to 20%) for a research reactor in Tehran, used for medical purposes.
The meeting went ahead despite Iranian state media reports that the country would refuse to consider France as a potential supplier.
Press TV cited sources close to the meeting as saying France had been "removed from the list of potential suppliers" due to its failure "to deliver its nuclear materials in the past".
The channel said Western countries have proposed that Iran exchange its low-enriched uranium (LEU) for higher-enriched uranium, but that Iran wants to keep its LEU inside the country, and directly buy the more highly enriched fuel.
Before the meeting, Iran said it would step up its uranium enrichment program if no deal can be reached.
"If the negotiations do not yield the desired results, Iran will start enriching uranium to the 20 percent level for its Tehran reactor. It will never give up this right," the AFP news agency quoted Iran's Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Ali Shirzadian as saying.
Iran is under three sets of UN Security Council sanctions over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment. The country recently admitted having a second uranium enrichment site in Qom, sparking international calls for harsher sanctions.