Iran urged to allow spot N-checks
By Michael Adler in Vienna
September 8, 2003
THE United Nations' nuclear watchdog is expected to call on Iran to allow tougher, surprise inspections of its nuclear program, at a meeting opening in Vienna today.
The 35-nation Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) opens a four-day meeting, with the United States pushing for action against what it claims is a covert Iranian program to develop atomic weapons.
Iran's foreign minister said in Tehran on Saturday that the Islamic republic might soon agree to tougher inspections if ongoing on the issue with the IAEA removed "ambiguities".
"With explanations and the removal of ambiguities from the IAEA, Iran will in the near future sign the additional protocol", for tougher inspections, Kamal Kharazi was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.
The IAEA is pressing Iran to quickly sign and ratify an additional protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which would allow unannounced checks of its nuclear facilities by UN inspectors.
Iran, which has dismissed widespread suspicions it is using an atomic energy programme as a cover for nuclear weapons development, has maintained that it needs certain points of the protocol clarified before it can sign.
Iran has secretly put pressure on the IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei to play down the significance of its nuclear program, according to Monday's edition of German newspaper Die Welt.
Quoting western intelligence sources, the newspaper said Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's top diplomat on the UN nuclear watchdog, met Baradei, who is Egyptian, at the home of a prominent Egyptian businessman.
At the end of their two-hour discussion, the paper said El Baradei declared that his agency could not ignore evidence on Iran's nuclear program.
ElBaradei said last month that UN inspectors had found traces of highly enriched uranium at an Iranian nuclear facility.
He also warned of "terrible consequences" if Iran's claim that its nuclear program was entirely non-military turned out to be false.
The United States is pressing the IAEA board to pass a resolution urging Tehran to open its nuclear plants to full inspections.
Washington believes Iran is violating the NPT by secretly trying to acquire nuclear arms, while France has warned Tehran could do so within a few years.
Britain, already embroiled in a separate row with Tehran over the detention of one of its former diplomats, has also urged Iran to sign an extra protocol to the treaty that would allow surprise inspections to any site chosen by the IAEA. http://www.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,4057,7200593%255E1702,00.html