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IAEA chief: Iran deal possible

Ali Larijani, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, said his country will pursue its own path.


International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

VIENNA, Austria (CNN) -- The chief of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog said he hoped a deal could be reached soon over Iran's nuclear program.

Mohammed ElBaradei expressed cautious optimism as he spoke to reporters ahead of Monday's meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency board in Vienna.

"I am still very much hopeful that in the next week an agreement could be reached," ElBaradei said, referring to a recent flurry of diplomacy between Tehran and Moscow, and between Iran and Europe.

ElBaradei will submit a report on Iran's nuclear program to the 35-nation IAEA board of governors. The report will then be sent to the U.N. Security Council as mandated by an IAEA vote last month, Reuters reported.

The report will say Iran appears determined to expand its uranium enrichment program and is planning to start setting up thousands of uranium-enriching centrifuges this year, according to The Associated Press.

Delegates have said that whatever step the Security Council might take would stop well short of sanctions against Iran.

But on Monday, ElBaradei suggested that any action by the Security Council could still be avoided. He did not elaborate.

On Sunday, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator said his country would resume large-scale nuclear enrichment if the IAEA sends the Islamic Republic to the Security Council.

Ali Larijani also warned that Iran could use its oil production "as a weapon" if the nuclear imbroglio worsens.

"Referral to the Security Council will not have any benefit for us or anyone else," Larijani said.

"And this will actually cause a lot of problems for others. Referral to Security Council would definitely be a setback to the discussion and the talks. To have a nuclear program, this is our God-given right, and no country will give up such a right. We have left all the doors open for discussion."

Meanwhile, John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told an American-Israeli organization that the United States would use "all tools at our disposal" to address the threat an Iranian nuclear program might pose.

"We must not ignore Tehran's refusal to address the concerns of the international community," Bolton told the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington on Sunday.

"The longer we wait to confront the threat Iran poses, the harder it will become to resolve."

Iran has already resumed enrichment on a very small scale at its Natanz research facility, testing an cascading array of 20 centrifuges, according to the IAEA. Thousands of centrifuges are required to produce enough enriched uranium to be useful.

Iran insists it wants to use its nuclear program to augment a burgeoning domestic demand for electricity, freeing up its vast oil reserves -- Iran is estimated to have the fourth largest in the world -- for export.

But the West -- particularly the United States -- believes Iran intends to build nuclear weapons, an allegation Iran denies. Three years of negotiations with Britain, France and Germany -- known as the EU-3 -- failed to produce an agreement.

The last such negotiations fell apart Friday, although German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the talks were held in a "very constructive atmosphere" and he remained hopeful that Tehran "will take the necessary steps for confidence-building measures in order to continue the dialogue which we all very much want."

Larijani had requested that session after meeting in Moscow with officials about a Russian proposal to enrich uranium for Tehran inside Russia, provided Iran cease enrichment activities inside its own borders. But, he said Sunday that "the doors to discussion are open."

"We would like to continue our dialogue," he said.

He warned, however, that adverse action against Iran by the Security Council could force Iran to respond in kind.

"We have no interest to use oil as a sort of weapon to fight other countries," he said. "But naturally, this may become a weapon of resistance from our country if the situation gets worse."

"To threaten Iran ... it just causes Iran to cut back on its cooperation," he said.

Larijani also blamed the United States for fanning the flames the problem.

"The American government needs to create some kind of crisis because, now, in regard to Iraq, they have made a huge mess, and now they have to redirect the attention of the world to something else."

The United States has no direct ties with Iran.

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