UN nuclear agency warns Iran 'time is running out'
By Roula Khalaf in Vienna
Published: October 9 2003 22:06 | Last Updated: October 9 2003 22:06
The chief United Nations nuclear inspector on Thursday called on Iran to accelerate its co-operation with his agency. He warned that time was running out for Tehran to comply with an end of October deadline and provide full transparency to allay international concerns over its nuclear programme.
Tehran insists its nuclear programme is aimed at peaceful energy production, but the US maintains it is a front for developing nuclear weapons.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, said teams of inspectors sent last week were given access to sites they had requested and received fresh information from the Iranian authorities.
But he stressed that the amount and flow of information remained inadequate.
The IAEA's governing board last month set a deadline of the end of October for Iran to provide inspectors with assurances that it had not diverted nuclear material to weapons use. Failure to meet the deadline would escalate the dispute by sending it to the UN Security Council, where the US would seek a statement that increased diplomatic pressure on Iran and countries that had assisted its nuclear programme.
The IAEA board's pressure on Iran appears to have intensified the debate between hardliners and reformists within the Tehran regime over the merits of co-operation.
Mohamed Khatami, the president, this week said Iran would provide all necessary co-operation to prove it was not developing nuclear weapons.
"They've promised information will be forthcoming but it has not yet been provided," Mr ElBaradei said. "The central question is whether Iran has any [uranium] enrichment activities that we have not been informed about. On that question I haven't got satisfactory information."
Iran has also said it would provide a list of all imported components to address an important sticking point with the IAEA and convince inspectors that traces of weapons-grade uranium found at two sites were the result of contaminated equipment purchased from abroad.
Mr ElBaradei, however, stressed that he needed to know the origin of the components to verify Iranian assertions.
Iran has insisted that it would continue enriching uranium despite the IAEA governing board's call for it to suspend such activities. Mr ElBaradei said the suspension of uranium enrichment was demanded as a confidence-building measure and failure to comply with the request would not constitute a violation of Iran's Safeguards Agreement.
Iran has also given conflicting signals as to whether it would sign an agreement, known as the additional protocol, to allow more intrusive inspections of nuclear sites. Mr ElBaradei said the agreement was essential for the future, but was not his immediate priority.
Speaking in London on Thursday, John Bolton, US undersecretary of state for arms control, predicted Iran would "co-operate a little" with the IAEA, to buy time.
He said Iran would be capable of producing nuclear weapons "towards the end of the decade". http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1059480478752