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Iranian women shout anti-U.S. slogans in front of the uranium conversion plant in Isfahan in central Iran during a protest rally in January (file photo) (epa)
April 9, 2006 -- Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are due to begin work in Iran today.
The UN inspectors -- who arrived in Iran on April 7 -- are due to visit a uranium conversion facility at Isfahan and a uranium enrichment plant in Natanz. The visit is the first since Tehran announced in mid-February that it was suspending unannounced inspections and removed agency cameras from some nuclear facilities.
The head of the IAEA, Mohammad el-Baradei, is expected in Iran on April 11 or 12 for talks aimed at persuading Iran to cooperate more fully.
The United States accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
The UN Security Council is demanding that Iran halt all uranium enrichment by the end of this month.
(compiled from agency reports)
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.