Vienna, 19 December 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Russia and the European Union have welcomed Iran's signing of an agreement allowing the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency to conduct unscheduled inspections of Iranian nuclear complexes and research facilities. The United States also welcomed the move, but the State Department cautioned that the signing was only a "first step" toward Iran meeting its international commitments to show it is not developing atomic weapons.
Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, on 18 December signed the Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty at the UN agency's headquarters in Vienna.
Salehi said the signing showed that Iran is ready to open all of its nuclear program to international scrutiny to show that the country is not developing nuclear arms.
The UN nuclear watchdog in November criticized Iran for an 18-year cover-up of potentially arms-related nuclear research and warned that further breaches of non-proliferation obligations could lead to a referral to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.