Mohammed El-Baradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, spoke in Tehran today. He said UN inspectors have taken nuclear samples, will examine them, and are to report their findings to the IAEA.
"The issue of [uranium] enrichment right now, as emotional as it is, is not urgent," he said. "So, we have ample time to negotiate a settlement by which, as I said, Iran's need for nuclear power is assured and the concern of the international community is also put to rest."
In Tehran, El-Baradei held talks on Iran's disputed nuclear program. He met with the country's Atomic Energy Organization chief, Gholam Reza Aghazadeh and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani.
Iran announced this week that its scientists have enriched uranium to make nuclear fuel despite international opposition.
Larijani said Tehran will reply within two weeks to the IAEA demand that it suspend uranium enrichment.
Economic sanctions could further undermine Iran's already shaky economy (Fars)
MOVING TOWARD SANCTIONS: If the United Nations Security Council imposes sanctions on Iran, domestic support for Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad will wane, according to ALEX VATANKA, Eurasia editor for Jane's Information Group.
Vatanka told a February 24 RFE/RL briefing that "economic sanctions will hurt the average Iranian" and, consequently, many "will blame the ruling clerics" for making life difficult and "impairing the country's long term development."
Vatanka said sanctions would be a serious challenge to the Iranian government. If harsh economic sanctions were imposed, Iran's poorest population will be hurt the hardest -- and might react "as they did in the 1970s and protest in the streets." Sanctions on travel, Vatanka said, would hurt a many Iranians because "Iran is a nation of small traders" who depend on the ability to travel to earn an income. According to Vatanka, unemployment in Iran is estimated at 30 percent, "so small trading is essential to survival." Although current U.S. sanctions "haven't worked," he said, "Iranians fear an oil embargo." He stressed that "oil revenues are a major part of the economy, so it is critical to look at this sector."
Should negotiations with the European Union and the UN fail, Vatanka believes that Iran would follow a "North Korea model," since Ahmadinejad's base of support among the "Islamist militias" has been "urging withdrawal from the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty]." The Iranian government's "tactic" so far, Vatanka said, is governed by the belief that "by shouting the loudest, you'll get concessions [from the West]."
Listen to the complete panel discussion (about 60 minutes):
THE COMPLETE STORY: RFE/RL's coverage of the controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program.
CHRONOLOGY An annotated timeline of Iran's nuclear program.