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Iran Signs Accord On Nuclear Inspections

Vienna, 18 December 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Iran has signed an additional protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to permit unscheduled inspections of its nuclear installations. Muhammad el-Baradei, head of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, and Iranian representative Ali Akbar Salehi signed the agreement at the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.

Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh said yesterday in Tehran that Iran agreed to sign the protocol to prove that its nuclear activities are peaceful. IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky called the action positive.

"We think it is a big step forward. We'll never be able to detect small activities that might take place in a laboratory, but to mount a full nuclear weapons program is a much different thing, and the protocol gives us a much higher probability of detecting such a thing," Gwozdecky said.

Russia's Foreign Ministry issued a statement welcoming the development. And European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana called it an important step.