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Iran: IAEA Chief Says Tehran Has Agreed To Speed Up Cooperation

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) yesterday said after meetings with top Iranian officials that Tehran has agreed on a timetable for speeding up cooperation with the agency. However, the United States has reiterated its belief that Iran is not fully cooperating with the IAEA.

Prague, 7 April 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Iran pledged yesterday to accelerate its cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog and answer remaining questions about its nuclear program.

Tehran's new commitment came after talks in the Iranian capital with the head of the IAEA, Muhammad el-Baradei. El-Baradei had warned that the international community is losing patience with the Islamic Republic.

"Rather than the international community proving that Iran has acted against the international law in some way, I think Iran has to prove it has not."
The IAEA chief yesterday expressed satisfaction regarding his meetings with the Iranian officials and said his talks had yielded "welcome and positive steps." El-Baradei told reporters in Tehran that officials had agreed on an action plan with a schedule for moving forward on all outstanding issues.

"Mr. [Gholamreza] Aghazadeh, [the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization], committed that Iran would do everything possible to accelerate the process of resolving the outstanding issues," he said. "And we hope during the course of my visit we will be able to develop an action plan where we can have a timeline and see how we [can] work together to resolve the outstanding issues."

El-Baradei said that a team of five IAEA inspectors will visit Iran on 12 April to verify that Iran has honored its commitment to suspend enrichment of uranium. Iran has come under criticism for not providing full details about its nuclear activities in an October statement, including undeclared research on "P2" centrifuges that can make weapons-grade uranium. Tehran suspended nuclear inspections last month after the IAEA said it failed to give a comprehensive declaration of its nuclear activities. Iran, however, later allowed a team of UN inspectors to visit sites in the country.

The IAEA is also looking at traces of highly enriched uranium found in Iran. Iran blames materials imported from outside countries for the contamination. Highly enriched uranium is a key ingredient for the production of nuclear weapons.

El-Baradei said yesterday that during talks, the head of Iran's National Security Council, Hassan Rowhani, had told him Iran will offer fresh information on its nuclear program this month as well as in mid-May.

El-Baradei also said the head of Iran's atomic organization, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, said that from 9 April the country will temporarily suspend making and assembling nuclear parts, including centrifuges for uranium enrichment.

After the talks, Iranian officials expressed hope that further Iran-IAEA issues will be resolved soon. Aghazadeh said Tehran expects the case to be closed by June, when the IAEA board of governors will meet again to discuss Iran's nuclear program.

IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky told RFE/RL that the international community would also like to see Iran's nuclear dossier closed as soon as possible. "We're prepared to move this as quick as the facts allow us to move," he said. "We and the rest of the international community want to bring closure to this file as soon as possible. And we'll make as much progress as we can before June, and we can't prejudge how far we will get."

Paul Beaver, a defense analyst and specialist on the Middle East, said that in order for that to happen Iran should demonstrate that its nuclear program is peaceful. "What is needed is that Iran should be fully compliant in order for that to happen. And that is something which I think some people in Iran just don't feel that they want to do. But unless they do that they're not going to be off the list, off the wanted list," Beaver said.

In reaction to Iran's new pledges to fully cooperate with the UN nuclear watchdog, the United States said that actions -- not promises -- were the only way Iran could dispel allegations that it is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful and for civilian purposes only. But Washington accuses Tehran of pursuing a clandestine weapons program.

Under a deal brokered last October by France, Germany, and Britain, Iran agreed to fully cooperate with the IAEA and to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities.

Yesterday, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters the United States would take a wait-and-see attitude. "It's great if they actually live up to their promises, but so far they haven't done that," he said. "And really until they do that, this investigation, this process of review by the IAEA, has to continue," he said.

Paul Beaver says it is Iran's duty to dispel international concern over its nuclear activities. "I think anyone who has a nuclear program has a duty to set the international community's concerns at rest," he said. "I think that's something that has to be done. Rather than the international community proving that Iran has acted against the international law in some way, I think Iran has to prove it has not. I know this goes against natural justice but this is, after all, what Germany and Japan had to do for about 30 years from 1945 -- so it's not an unusual thing that we are asking from Iran."
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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 the author 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.