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UN: IAEA Opens Session On Iranian, Libyan Nuclear Programs

The board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today opened its meeting focusing on violations by Iran and Libya in pursuing their nuclear programs. Iran's top national security official yesterday called on the UN's nuclear watchdog to finish its probe of Iran's nuclear activities and confirm that the country has not secretly pursued a nuclear weapons program.

Prague, 8 March 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Two resolutions -- one on Iran, the other on Libya -- are likely to be issued by the end of this week's meeting of the 35-member board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The closed-door meeting started today in Vienna.

IAEA Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei said today that both Iran and Libya were long-term violators of their nuclear obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The time has come, he says, for them to present all information available regarding their nuclear programs. "In view, of course, of many years of violation of the nonproliferation obligation by Libya and Iran, I am asking for a prompt provision of information and full measure of transparency," he said. "I think we started from [a] confidence deficit -- and to build confidence, it takes time and requires absolute transparency and full openness."

El-Baradei said he would report to the board the status of the two cases and "wait for the board's guidance on how to proceed."

"I think the board will be happy that the issue [of Iran's nuclear activities] will no longer be on the agenda once we have completed our work on verifying past nuclear activities."
The atomic agency chief also told reporters ahead of today's meeting that he will present information about the global nuclear black market and central figures like Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, who recently admitted to selling nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya, and North Korea.

"I am also reporting to the board on the big picture, our revelations on the black market in trading nuclear equipment and nuclear material, and putting forward to the board some ideas on how to re-engineer the nonproliferation regime and hopefully also revive the stalling process of nuclear arms control," el-Baradei said.

Ahead of the Vienna meeting, Tehran yesterday called on the IAEA to remove Iran's nuclear program from its agenda. The head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Hassan Rohani, called on the international community to accept Iran as a legitimate and peaceful user of nuclear energy.

Responding to Rohani's statement, el-Baradei said Iran's nuclear program will be removed from the agency's agenda when "we are done with all the issues that are still outstanding." "I think the board will be happy that the issue [of Iran's nuclear activities] will no longer be on the agenda once we have completed our work on verifying past nuclear activities," el-Baradei said. "So, that depends very much on our success in resolving outstanding issues, it depends very much on the kind of cooperation we hopefully will continue to receive from Iran."

The IAEA does not appear likely to halt its investigation into Iran's nuclear activities anytime soon.

In October, Iran provided the IAEA with what it said was a full and complete declaration regarding its nuclear activities. But a recent IAEA report said the declaration fell short of full disclosure. The report said UN inspectors had found blueprints and parts for building an advanced uranium-enrichment centrifuge capable of producing weapons-grade uranium. The report also said Iran has experimented with creating both plutonium and polonium. Both materials can be used in the production of nuclear weapons.

Washington, which accuses Tehran of pursuing a clandestine weapons program, said last week that it will not press the IAEA to refer the Iran issue to the UN Security Council. But U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton said Washington will keep up pressure on Iran.

Observers say Washington does not have enough backing from the IAEA board members to take Iran's matter to the Security Council for possible sanctions. News agencies quoted Western diplomats on the IAEA board as saying they were working on a draft resolution on Iran circulated by the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia which combines "some criticism and some praise."

The draft resolution on Libya reportedly praises the country for its decision in December to give up its weapons program, and also for its cooperation with the IAEA on the investigation into the nuclear black market. Reuters reported that the resolution will call for a formal referral of Libya's violations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to the Security Council.

IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said today that Libya and Niger are due on 10 March to sign the Additional Protocol to the NPT, which will allow UN officials the right to conduct snap inspections of their nuclear facilities.

The IAEA board meeting is expected to last for a week.
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    Golnaz Esfandiari

    Golnaz Esfandiari is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL focusing on Iran. She has reported from Afghanistan and Haiti and is one of the authors of The Farda Briefing newsletter. Her work has been cited by The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other major publications. Born and raised in Tehran, she is fluent in Persian, French, English, and Czech.