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Iran to settle atom inquiry issues within month - IAEA

January 13, 2008
MYT 10:31:03 PM

Iran to settle atom inquiry issues within month - IAEA

By Mark Heinrich

VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran agreed to answer remaining questions about past, secret nuclear work within a month at talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency chief, the U.N. watchdog said on Sunday.

In a statement issued after IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei's return, the U.N. watchdog said Tehran gave him information about work to develop an advanced centrifuge able to enrich uranium much faster than the antiquated model it uses now.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed Elbaradei speaks with the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while attending an official meeting in Tehran January 12, 2008. (REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl)

ElBaradei met top Iranian leaders over two days last week to push for swifter cooperation to wrap up a longrunning IAEA inquiry into its nuclear history and shed light on its current programme, which the West suspects will yield atom bombs.

Iran denies the accusation.

ElBaradei is anxious to see a standoff between Iran and Western powers over its disputed nuclear ambitions settled peacefully, a concern underscored by a U.S.-Iranian naval incident in the Gulf a week ago which has fanned tensions.

Iran, after years of stonewalling that helped lead to U.N. sanctions, agreed in August to clarify questions about its nuclear past, a process called the "work plan". But an end of year target set by ElBaradei passed with issues still open.

"Agreement was reached on the timeline for implementation of all the remaining verification issues specified in the work plan. According to the agreed schedule implementation ... should be completed in the next four weeks," the IAEA said.

A diplomat close to the IAEA said ahead of ElBaradei's rare visit that the agency inquiry had entered a final phase with Iran addressing U.S. intelligence given to U.N. inspectors about past attempts to "weaponise" atomic material.

"Iran is prepared to remove all outstanding ambiguities by March," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told a news conference in Tehran on Sunday.

That would be in time for ElBaradei's next Iran report to the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors, which meets on March 3-7.

CONCERN

Western diplomats had expressed concern that Iran would lose motivation to carry out the "work plan" after a U.S. intelligence report last month said Tehran had stopped an active nuclear weapons programme in 2003.

The report also said Iran was still striving to develop enrichment prowess that could be militarised in the future, but it has nevertheless undercut a U.S.-led push for harsher sanctions against Tehran.

ElBaradei also tried to impress on Iran the need to permit wider inspections under the IAEA's Additional Protocol and take other measures demanded by the U.N. Security Council to prove the Islamic Republic's repeated assertions that it is enriching uranium only for peaceful energy.

To that end, the statement said: "Iran also provided information on its research and development activities on a new generation of centrifuges." These are being developed at workshops now off-limits to U.N. inspectors.

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