May 15, 2008 / 1:39 PM / 12 years ago

Iran says nuclear talks with U.N. watchdog positive

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran said on Thursday the latest round of talks with U.N. inspectors to resolve remaining issues over its disputed nuclear work were “positive and constructive”, a news agency reported.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (C) visits the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, 350 km (217 miles) south of Tehran, April 8, 2008. Iran said on Thursday the latest round of talks with U.N. inspectors to resolve remaining issues over its disputed nuclear work were "positive and constructive", a news agency reported. REUTERS/Presidential official website/Handout

Experts from the two sides on Wednesday wrapped up three days of talks aimed at removing concerns about Iran’s nuclear uranium enrichment program, which the West suspects is aimed at building atom bombs.

“Technical and expertise discussions were held in a positive and constructive atmosphere,” Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s ambassador to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, told Iran’s ISNA news agency.

Soltanieh did not elaborate on issues addressed in the talks with Hermann Naeckerts, who is head of the U.N. watchdog’s safeguards inspections in the Middle East region.

The IAEA said in April Tehran had agreed on steps to clarify by the end of May intelligence allegations that Tehran conducted covert studies into how to design a nuclear warhead. Iran says the intelligence is false.

In Vienna, an IAEA spokeswoman declined comment on the series of talks, saying results would be in the agency’s next report on Iran due in a week to 10 days’ time.

The intelligence came variously from a laptop computer spirited out of Iran by a defector in 2004 and passed to Washington, from some other Western countries and from the IAEA’s own inquiries.

Soltanieh and the IAEA’s global safeguards director, Olli Heinonen, held two round of talks in Tehran last month on intelligence suggesting Iran researched how to make bombs, which would be a violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

“I doubt further talks with the IAEA will continue in coming days but it depends on the IAEA’s studies. If the IAEA wants, we will continue talks,” he said.

The Islamic Republic says its nuclear programme is peaceful and aimed at generating electricity so that it can export more of its oil and gas. Iran is the world’s No. 4 oil producer.

The U.N. Security Council has imposed three rounds of sanctions on Iran for defying to suspend its sensitive nuclear work. Major powers are expected to offer a revised package of trade and other incentives to Iran in coming days if Tehran suspends its sensitive nuclear work.

Iran has repeatedly refused to do so and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insisted on Wednesday that Tehran would never abandon its nuclear activities.

Additional reporting by Mark Heinrich in Vienna; Writing by Zahra Hosseinian; Editing by Stephen Weeks

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