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With latest IAEA report in hand, UN chief slams Iran for lack of cooperation (+video)

Speaking in Tehran today, UN chief Ban Ki-moon criticized Iran for failing to reassure the world it is not pursuing nuclear weapons as the IAEA reported its nonmilitary nuclear work continues apace. 

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"It is in Iran's interest to take concrete steps to build international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program," Mr. Ban said today, calling for the nuclear issue to be solve through "diplomatic and peaceful means." "That is why I urge Iran to uphold its responsibilities as a UN member state and ... comply with relevant Security Council resolutions."

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Nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 group (the permanent five members of the UN Security Council – the US, Russia, China, Britain, France – and Germany) began last spring but have slowed over the P5+1's demands that Tehran close Fordow, and halt all uranium enrichment.

A call between the top negotiators Catherine Ashton for the P5+1, and Saeed Jalili for Iran, was meant to have been held by the end of August but will now take place next week at the earliest, according to Ms. Ashton's office.

Few expect any progress before the US presidential election in early November, citing US President Obama's unwillingness to be perceived as making any concessions on Iran, while his opponent Mitt Romney calls him "soft" on the nuclear program.

"Everyone – absolutely everyone – is waiting for the American election," says a former senior European diplomat until recently posted in Iran. "If there is any movement at all it will be afterwards. They completely understand that the Iranians can't move, and that the Americans can't move – so everybody is waiting for that November day."

Technical difficulties?

US administration officials have said the nuclear progress noted in the IAEA report is not a "game changer," either for talks or US action. US and Israeli officials have said repeatedly that "all options" – including military ones – remain on the table.

"Why Iran is not operating the newly installed centrifuges is uncertain. Technical difficulties offer one possibility," writes Mark Fitzpatrick, a nonproliferation expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, in an analysis posted today on Al-Monitor website.

"Iran may also be seeking to calibrate the tempo of its enrichment activity so as not to goad its antagonists," says Mr. Fitzpatrick. "Tehran has proven to be adept at such salami-slicing tactics, gradually increasing the size of its enrichment program [so] it now has a stockpile of low-enriched uranium sufficient for at least four weapons [some say more than six] if further enriched."

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