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Mon 8 Dec 2008 09:18 AM

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IAEA chief says Iran talks failed - report

ElBaradei says IAEA has not really moved 'one inch' toward addressing issues, policy has been 'failure'.

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog said that international efforts to halt Iranian nuclear activity have been a failure, according to an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

"We haven't really moved one inch toward addressing the issues," said Mohamed ElBaradei who heads the International Atomic Energy Agency *(IAEA), in an interview published Saturday.

"I think so far the policy has been a failure."

Iran has faced three sets of UN Security Council sanctions over its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment activities, but over the past five years Tehran has pressed on with its controversial nuclear work.

The United States and other western powers suspect that the Islamic republic's nuclear program is a cover for an atomic weapons-making program.

Iran, a leading OPEC oil producer, denies it is seeking nuclear weapons and says it aims to provide energy for its growing population when its reserves of fossil fuels run out.

The IAEA reported last month that Iran now has more than 5,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges in operation.

ElBaradei, 66, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and frequent critic of the administration of US president George W. Bush and its hardline approach to nuclear talks, said the White House successor, Barack Obama, gave him "lots of hope".

"He is ready to talk to his adversaries, enemies, if you like, including Iran, also [North] Korea," he said of Obama, who has advocated for the abolishment of nuclear weapons and more dialogue with political foes.

"To continue to pound the table and say, 'I am not going to talk to you,' and act in a sort of a very condescending way - that exaggerates problems," he told the newspaper.

ElBaradei, who has headed the IAEA for 11 years, added that sanctions may have led to "more hardening of the position of Iran", the report said.

"Many Iranians who even dislike the regime [are] gathering around the regime because they feel that country is under siege."