Iran Allows Sampling Ahead of IAEA Report
August 14, 2003
The Financial Times
Najmeh Bozorgmehr and Roula Khalaf
Iran allowed UN atomic energy inspectors this week to take samples from a controversial and previously banned site, in an apparent attempt to moderate the tone of a report on Iran due early next month.
The move comes after samples from the Natanz plant removed in June by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) tested positive for enriched uranium, raising further concerns about Iran's nuclear programme.
Saber Zaeimian, spokesman for the Iran Atomic Energy Organisation, confirmed that a four-man IAEA team, which ended a three-day visit to Iran yesterday, had taken samples from the Kalay-e-Electric company "and other places they asked for".
The IAEA had complained in a report to its board in June that it had been barred from taking environmental samples at Kalay-e-Electric, suspected of being part of Iran's uranium enrichment project.
According to western diplomats the agency's concerns over Iran's nuclear programme have been exacerbated by the results of the samples taken in June, which suggest that Iran could have tested centrifuges with enriched uranium.
Diplomats said that while the samples were not proof of aweapons programme they contradicted earlier Iranian assertions.
Tehran insists its nuclear programme is strictly for civilian use. But it has faced increased international pressure to agree to enhanced inspections of its sites by signing the "additional protocol" to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Pressure will intensify if the new IAEA report raises fresh suspicions by finding that Iran had once again breached the so-called safeguards agreement. The US could seek to find Iran in violation of the NPT and refer the issue to the UN Security Council.
Iranian officials have hinted in recent weeks that, despite misgivings, Tehran will agree to the additional protocol, though western diplomats say a final decision by the leadership has not been reached yet.
Gholamreza Aghazadeh, Iran's top energy official, told reporters yesterday that Iran would address the world's concerns. But he said more discussions with the IAEA were needed on the additional protocol.
"No questions [or] ambiguities remained unanswered," Mr Aghazadeh said after a cabinet meeting. "With our behaviour and co-operation with the IAEA and other countries, we'll remove the world's concerns and [instead] expect them to be transparent."
Iran has demanded assurances it would have access to international help for its civilian nuclear projects if it signed the protocol. But diplomats say Tehran must accept tougher inspections, without conditions, to ease international concerns over its nuclear activities. http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1059479005771&p=1012571727172