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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 July, 2003, 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK
Iran split over nuclear policy
By Sadeq Saba
BBC regional analyst

IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei (left) greets Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi
Not seeing eye to eye: Iran and the United Nations
Iranian politicians are divided over whether to allow more intrusive inspections of the country's nuclear facilities.

The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog, Mohammed ElBaradei, who is visiting Iran, has said such inspections are necessary to prove that Iran's nuclear programme is indeed peaceful.

But Iranian leaders are facing a dilemma over how to respond to increasing international pressure to open up their nuclear facilities.

They agree that allowing tougher inspections of the facilities - or refusing them - could have serious implications for Iran's national interests.

But they cannot agree on how to respond to increasing international pressure to be more transparent about their nuclear programme.

Some politicians believe that in the current hostile international environment, the country has no room for manoeuvre and should accept the United Nations demand unconditionally.

'Espionage threat'

They argue that such a move would disprove Washington's accusations that the Islamic government is secretly developing nuclear weapons and save the country from possible foreign intervention.

Others completely disagree.

Satellite image of nuclear power reactor in Bushehr, Iran
There is international concern about Iran's nuclear programme
They say Iran should not give in to international pressure and expose the country's defences to hostile foreigners.

An influential conservative newspaper asked how the United Nations nuclear watchdog could guarantee that Washington would not try to infiltrate the country's defences through espionage if Iran opened up its nuclear facilities.

There is also a third trend in the Iranian leadership - which goes even further and says that Iran should withdraw from all international non-proliferation treaties.

Some hardline elements have also recently argued that nuclear bombs could be an effective deterrent against hostile foreign powers.

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