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Sun 11 May 2008 11:36 PM

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Iran, IAEA to resume talks

Agency delegation heads to Tehran for three days of talks over disputed nuclear programme.

Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency will on Monday resume their latest round of talks on Tehran's disputed nuclear programme, Iran's envoy to the UN watchdog told the Fars news agency on Sunday.

"The IAEA delegation headed by Herman Nackaerts, the director for safeguards operations, starts its technical and specialist talks with Iranian experts on Monday," Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Tehran's ambassador to the IAEA, said.

Soltanieh will head the talks in Tehran "which are likely to last three days," Fars added.

Iran and the IAEA held two rounds of talks in April focused on allegations that the Islamic republic conducted studies on how to design a nuclear bomb.

The so called "weaponisation studies" stem from intelligence provided to the IAEA by some member states.

But Iran insists that the talks are merely routine cooperation between the authorities and the agency.

Next month IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei is due to provide a report on Iran's nuclear programme to the IAEA board of governors and the UN Security Council, which has imposed three sets of sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear defiance.

Iran has refused to heed international demands to halt uranium enrichment, insisting that it has a right to the process to make nuclear fuel to meet its increasing energy needs as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Uranium enrichment can also make the fissile core of an atom bomb in high purifications, but Tehran has vehemently denied allegations that it seeks to acquire nuclear weapons.