U.N. Nuclear Inspectors Delay Trip as Iran Prepares
Friday, September 26, 2003
U.N. nuclear inspectors on Friday delayed a trip to Iran after Tehran requested more time to prepare ahead of an October 31 deadline to prove it has no secret atomic weapons program.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said a team of inspectors who had been set to fly to Iran on Sunday would now leave sometime late next week.
"The Iranian government requested the delay to allow them more time to prepare for the visit," IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told Reuters.
The inspectors were headed to Iran as part of stepped up scrutiny by the IAEA ahead of an October 31 deadline for Tehran to enable the United Nations to verify it has no secret atomic weapons program.
After strong lobbying by the United States for action, the IAEA governing board on September 12 set the deadline and called on Tehran to suspend all uranium-enrichment activities.
Washington, which branded Iran a member of an "axis of evil" with North Korea and pre-war Iraq, believes Iran's enrichment plants may be used to purify uranium for use in a nuclear bomb.
Iran denies the allegation and insists its nuclear ambitions are limited to generating electricity.
Reuters reported this week that IAEA inspectors had found traces of weapons-grade enriched uranium at a second site in Iran, and President Bush warned Tehran it faced global condemnation.
One diplomat told Reuters the discovery could support Tehran's explanation that the discovery of highly enriched uranium at a previous site in Iran was due to contamination from imported components.
But several other diplomats said it could support the U.S. theory that Iran has been secretly purifying uranium for use in a nuclear explosive device.
A senior Iranian cleric on Friday dismissed the accusations. "The claim of foreign powers that Iran is trying to develop atomic arms is our enemies' pretext for putting more pressure on us," Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani told worshippers in Tehran in a sermon broadcast live on state radio.
He added that the United States could not "tolerate our scientific power." http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A4015-2003Sep26.html