1. IAEA Sets New Deadline for Iran to Clear Up Nuclear File
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The UN atomic watchdog announced on Sunday that Iran has agreed to clear up remaining questions on its nuclear programme -- including any military activity -- in four weeks.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, and Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad agreed that a "work plan" on ending the Iran nuclear standoff should be completed in four weeks, the agency said in a statement.
The deputy chief of Iran's atomic energy agency, Mohammed Saidi, confirmed the timeframe, the country's state news agency IRNA reported.
"Iran will respond within the space of four weeks to the remaining questions so that the IAEA can make a transparent report on the Iranian nuclear programme," said Saidi.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran has nothing to hide, and that's why it does not fear answering the remaining questions. I am optimistic."
However, diplomats in Vienna, where the IAEA is based, expressed scepticism that Iran would come clean about its nuclear activities within the new timeframe.
And the United States said the agreement does not go far enough, insisting the Islamic republic suspend uranium enrichment.
"Answering questions about their past nuclear activities is a step, but they still need to suspend their enrichment and reprocessing activity," said a White House spokesman," said Gordon Johndroe.
Earlier, US President George W. Bush in a speech in Abu Dhabi branded Iran "the world's leading state sponsor of terror".
ElBaradei, his deputy Olli Heinonen, and the agency's head of external relations, Vilmos Cserveny, were in Tehran on Friday and Saturday, where they met Khamenei and Ahmadinejad.
The work plan was part of a deal struck between ElBaradei and Tehran last year to deal with unresolved questions on Iran's atomic drive.
The key issues were Iran's past experiments with plutonium, its use of uranium-enriching P1 and P2 centrifuges, questions about particles of arms-grade enriched uranium found by IAEA inspectors at Tehran's Technical University, and most significantly possible military applications of the nuclear technology.
Originally, the work plan had envisaged resolving all issues by the end of 2007.
In Tehran, the head of Iran's atomic energy organisation Gholam Reza Aghazadeh had told the ISNA news agency: "We are hoping that all the past and present questions about our dossier will be solved and that we will return to a normal situation."
The IAEA said the talks in Tehran were on "ways and means to accelerate implementation of safeguards in Iran, as well as additional confidence-building measures ...
"According to the agreed schedule, implementation of the work plan should be completed in the next four weeks," it said.
But Western diplomats said Iran had long been aware of the issues which worry the United Nations and that it had originally agreed to clear them up by the end of last year.
"So it's about time it got on with resolving them rather than just stringing the process out," said a British diplomat, on condition of anonymity.
"Fundamentally, the issue is one of confidence and only by suspending (uranium enrichment) to allow us to enter into negotiations will we be able to work out a long-term solution to provide that confidence," the diplomat said.
Another Western diplomat said the work plan was just "one small part" of any overall settlement with Iran. "Suspension of enrichment and applying the additional protocol are perhaps even more important."
Enriched uranium is used to make both nuclear fuel and nuclear weapons and the West has always insisted that Iran suspend enrichment to prove to the international community that its nuclear programme is peaceful, as Tehran claims.
Iran insists that it has an inalienable right to develop nuclear power for a growing population with increasing energy needs and adamantly refuses to suspend enrichment, in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.
Sunday's IAEA statement made no specific mention of the enrichment question.
Breaking new grounds, India and China on Monday decided to promote bilateral cooperation in civil nuclear energy and expedite resolution of the festering boundary issue.
Giving positive signals to India's bid for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, Beijing said it "supports" New Delhi's aspirations to play a greater role in the UN, including in the UNSC.
The two sides also agreed to hold second military exercise in India this year, building on the goodwill generated by the landmark handshake between the world's two powerful armies last month in Kumming in China.
During extensive talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao, it was agreed that Special Representatives M K Narayanan and Dai Bingguo, Senior Vice-Foreign Minister, will complete at an "early date" the task of arriving at a framework on the basis of the agreement on political parameters and guiding principles reached in April 2005.
The two countries "pledged to promote bilateral cooperation in civil nuclear energy consistent with respective international commitments which will contribute to energy security and to dealing with risks associated with climate change," a six-page joint document outlining 'shared vision of the 21st century of India and China' said.
The two sides also decided to enhance economic engagement by stepping up bilateral trade target from USD 40 billion to USD 60 billion by 2010.
Seeking to build a "boundary of peace and friendship", the two sides expressed their firm commitment to resolve all outstanding differences, including on the boundary question, through peaceful negotiations while ensuring that "such differences are not allowed to affect positive development of bilateral relations".
"The two sides reiterate their determination to seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution to the boundary question," the document said. Singh described his discussions with Wen on the issue as "useful".
The two countries asserted that India-China relations are not targeted at any country nor will it affect their friendship with other countries, seeking to allay fears about New Delhi's growing proximity to Washington.
Asking the international community to move forward the processes of multilateral arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, the two countries also opposed weaponisation and arms race race in outer space.
Summing up the importance of his parleys, Singh said India-China relations are of "regional and global" significance and felt the profound changes taking place in the world today presented both countries with a historic opportunity to work together towards a 21st century that is conducive to peace and development.
In an apparent effort to please China on the sensitive Taiwan, India pointed out that it was among the first countries to recognise that there is "One-China" and its policy remained "unaltered".
"The Indian side states that it would continue to abide by its One-China policy, and oppose any activity that is against the One-China principle," the document said.
Against the backdrop of accelerating regional economic integration in Asia, the two sides agreed to explore the possibility of commencing discussion on a mutually beneficial "high quality Regional Trading Arrangement" that meets the common aspiration of both the countries and will also benefit the region.
Singh and Wen strongly condemned the scourge of terrorism in all forms and manifestations and in all regions of the world.
The two sides signed 11 documents, including MoUs between top planning bodies and Ministries of Urban Development and Railways of the two countries.
China has also agreed to import tobacco leaves from India under a protocol of Phytosanitary Requirements signed on Monday.
1. Total, Suez, Areva to Build Two Nuclear Plants in Abu Dhabi
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French nuclear giant Areva, oil company Total and utility group Suez have reached agreement on plans to build two next generation nuclear power plants in Abu Dhabi, Total said Monday.
A Total spokeswoman said the two plants would be based on the third-generation system developed by Areva, the world's largest nuclear power group.
A statement on the deal is due shortly, the spokeswoman added.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday started a three-nation tour of Gulf Arab states, having offered to share France's expertise in civilian nuclear technology with the Islamic world.
During a stop in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, France and the United Arab Emirates are to sign a framework accord for cooperation in developing civilian nuclear energy, a source close to talks between the two governments said earlier.
Amid concerns over Iran's nuclear ambitions and growing regional clout, the six Arab monarchies of the Gulf decided in December 2006 to develop a joint nuclear technology programme for peaceful uses.
On the bourse Monday, Areva was up 0.78 percent at 708 euros while Total added 1.21 percent to 57.72 euros, helped by news of the deal on an otherwise flat market.
Suez, however, was down 2.24 percent to 45.37 euros, hit by news of a large sale of the company's stock.
1. Turkey Considers Uranium Enrichment for own Nuclear Power Plants
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Turkey may consider building a uranium enrichment center as part of an ambitious plan to develop the country's nuclear potential, a national newspaper said on Tuesday.
Turkey is preparing to issue a public tender for the construction of its first nuclear power plant and plans to build at least two nuclear reactors by 2015.
"The initiative [to build a uranium enrichment center] is strategically important for the whole world and for Turkey's future," the Hurriyet newspaper said.
The issue may be on the agenda of a nuclear energy meeting in Istanbul on Friday. In addition to representatives from the International Atomic Energy Agency, top-level officials from the United States, Russia, France and the U.K. are expected to attend the meeting.
The development of its own nuclear power industry was one of the priorities outlined for the country's government in Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's address to parliament following his election victory in July last year.
Turkey has been enjoying rapid economic growth for the past five years and is becoming increasingly energy hungry. Some analysts say that the country could soon face an energy shortfall if it continues to rely on traditional energy sources.
Turkey has limited fossil fuel reserves. According to various sources, it produces only 50,000 barrels of oil per day, but consumes over 700,000, while its coal reserves are of a poor quality.
Meanwhile, Turkey's interest in uranium enrichment may allay U.S. concerns over growing nuclear ambitions among Middle East countries, primarily Iran.
With Washington's blessing, Turkey, a traditional U.S. ally and a NATO member, might become one of the key suppliers of nuclear fuel for Muslim countries if they decide to build their own nuclear power plants.
"If Turkey, as a NATO member, becomes an important regional center for uranium enrichment, it would be beneficial not only for the U.S., but also for the countries in the region, because they would be able to buy fuel for their future nuclear reactors from Turkey," Hurriyet said.
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