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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 August, 2003, 17:07 GMT 18:07 UK
Nuclear agency uneasy over Iran
Satellite image of nuclear power reactor in Bushehr, Iran
Experts question why resource-rich Iran needs nuclear power (Photo: Digitalglobe)
The United Nations' nuclear watchdog says it remains concerned by Iran's nuclear programme.

A leaked report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said they were unable to confirm that Tehran is not enriching uranium, despite increased co-operation from the Iranian authorities in recent months.

The report says IAEA inspectors found traces of highly enriched uranium in samples taken from the Natanz nuclear facility.

Iran, which the US and Israel say is developing a secret nuclear weapons programme, has been under pressure to agree to more rigorous inspections of its facilities.

Allows for inspections at short notice
IAEA can take environmental samples at any location

The Iranian representative to the IAEA, Ali Akbar Salehi, told the BBC after meeting the IAEA's director general, Mohammad ElBaradei, that Iran was ready to begin negotiations on whether to sign up to snap inspections.

Tehran wants guarantees that the IAEA inspectors will not be given total freedom of movement and would not violate military or strategic secrets.

IAEA review

The IAEA has declined to comment directly on the leaked report, but a spokeswoman, Melissa Fleming, said there were still a number of outstanding issues, particularly with regard to Iran's enrichment programme, which required urgent resolution.

"Additional work... is required to arrive at conclusions about Iran's statements that there have been no uranium enrichment activities in Iran involving nuclear material," the conclusion to the report said.

Enriching uranium is a way of purifying it so it can be used in nuclear fuel or in weapons.

The IAEA's board of governors is to meet in Vienna for four days from 8 September to review Iran's case, with the threat that it might be forwarded to the UN Security Council if it finds Iran is not complying.

Tehran says its programme is to generate electricity and is for peaceful purposes only, to satisfy its growing demand for power and prevent long-term energy shortages.

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