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Last Updated: Monday, 15 September, 2003, 12:11 GMT 13:11 UK
Nuclear Iran urged to co-operate
Mohamed ElBaradei
ElBaradei says Iran should come clean
The United Nations nuclear watchdog has again urged Iran to open its facilities for rigorous inspection, and prove that it is not seeking nuclear weapons.

"It is essential and urgent that all outstanding issues - particularly those involving highly-enriched uranium - be brought to a closure as soon as possible," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei said on Monday.

He was speaking at the start of the agency's general conference in Vienna, three days after its ruling body gave Iran until October to disclose its nuclear activities.

Iran has condemned the deadline, but on Monday reaffirmed its commitment to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Mr ElBaradei's call was echoed by IAEA members at the Vienna meeting.

Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Roberto Antioniona, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said Iran should "take all the necessary steps to ensure full transparency of this nuclear programme".

Legitimate?

The recent discovery of highly-enriched uranium by IAEA inspectors at a nuclear facility in Iran has fuelled fears that Tehran might be working on an illegal weapons programme.

The Iranians deny this and blame the IAEA finding on contaminated components purchased abroad.

Satellite image of nuclear power reactor in Bushehr, Iran. Photo: Digitalglobe

They insist that the nuclear programme is designed to meet the country's energy needs.

On Friday the IAEA board of governors set an October 31 deadline to enable inspectors to verify that Iran is not secretly building a nuclear bomb.

At the weekend Tehran reacted by saying it was re-evaluating its links with the agency, which monitors compliance with the NPT.

On Monday, however, Iranian nuclear energy chief Gholamreza Aghazadeh said his country was "fully committed to its NPT responsibilities".

He added that he would go ahead with talks with the IAEA on signing a protocol allowing for more comprehensive and intrusive inspections of Iran's nuclear programme.

If the next meeting of IAEA governors in November finds Tehran in non-compliance with the NPT, it could refer the matter to the UN Security Council - which has the power to impose sanctions.

The United States suspects Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons and has been pressing the UN agency to take a strong line.

In August, Iran admitted that it had carried out uranium conversion experiments in the early 1990s, which the IAEA says should have been declared.




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