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IAEA Head Prods Iran Not To Ignore U.S. Overture

IAEA chief Muhammad el-Baradei has urged Iran to respond with "an equal gesture of goodwill and trust-building."
VIENNA (Reuters) -- The UN nuclear watchdog chief has urged Iran to meet a U.S. offer of unconditional talks with goodwill gestures, including giving inspectors easier access to monitor its nuclear program.

The June 12 reelection of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, condemned as fraudulent by losing candidates, has dimmed hopes abroad for a moderate successor who might take up concern over Iran's nuclear work and seriously engage U.S. President Barack Obama.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) didn't mention the vote but said the ball was in Iran's court after Obama's overture following 30 years of U.S.-Iranian hostility.

Obama "gives reason for hope that a genuine dialogue can lead to a comprehensive settlement of many security, political and economic issues spanning over 50 years," Muhammad el-Baradei told an IAEA governors meeting.

He urged Iran to respond with "an equal gesture of goodwill and trust-building," for example by lifting restrictions on UN inspectors that prevent them from checking that Iran's uranium-enrichment campaign is not being diverted to making atomic bombs.

Ahmadinejad said on June 14 that Iran's nuclear issue "belongs in the past," indicating there would be no concessions during his second term in office.


The United States and five other world powers earlier this year improved a 2006 package of diplomatic and trade incentives offered to Iran to suspend enrichment, and dropped a demand for a nuclear halt before talks can even begin.

But Iran has promised only readiness to negotiate a broader, vague palette of peace and security issues while saying its nuclear fuel campaign is a non-negotiable fait accompli.

Ahmadinejad has welcomed Obama's gesture but said he was awaiting real U.S. policy changes to back up the conciliatory talk. Washington had deferred action in the hope of Ahmadinejad losing the election to a moderate.

El-Baradei pushed Iran to accept a temporary "freeze for freeze" formula -- no further expansion of enrichment for no increase in UN sanctions -- suggested by the six powers to jump-start talks. But Tehran has ruled that out as well.

A June 5 IAEA report said Iran now has over 7,000 centrifuge enrichment machines installed and stockpiled what U.S. analysts said was enough potential nuclear fuel to be reprocessed into fissile material for one atomic bomb.

Iran say it seeks industrial-scale enrichment only for electricity so it can export more of its oil wealth.

But it hid sensitive nuclear research and development from the IAEA until Iranian exiles blew the whistle in 2002.

It limits inspector movements, has stymied an IAEA probe into intelligence allegations of illicit nuclear-weapon studies, and ceased giving design information on planned nuclear sites to the agency.

"There has been no movement on outstanding issues which need to be clarified to exclude the possibility of military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program," El-Baradei told the closed-door meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors.