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Cooperate quickly with UN inspectors, US tells Iran

USA Today | September 10, 2007

The United States and UN nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei closed ranks Monday in urging Iran to meet a timetable to resolve key nuclear questions and to do more to show the world it does not seek the bomb.
At issue is how to win guarantees that Iran's nuclear work is peaceful, with US patience wearing thin as it presses for more UN sanctions and ElBaradei urging more inspections that could lead to talks on ending the crisis.

Gregory Schulte, the US ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, gave grudging backing to the UN watchdog's new inspections timetable.

"We will press for rapid cooperation rather than continued delay and many countries will be joining us in doing so," he told reporters.

As a week-long meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors opened, ElBaradei stressed Tehran must also still suspend uranium enrichment, the process which can make nuclear reactor fuel or atom bomb material.

Diplomats told AFP this statement came after the United States, Britain, Germany and France had presented him and the board of governors this weekend with their fears that Iran would use the timetable to avoid both real cooperation and to delay the threat of UN sanctions.

"We're now on the same page," said a senior Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said ElBaradei had merely given a statement "consistent with his previous positions over the past few months."

A diplomat close to the agency said the Western nations had "wanted a clear statement by ElBaradei."

Iranian atomic energy agency deputy director Mohammad Saidi told the Irna news agency that "unfortunately one or two countries, in an illogical way, are putting themselves against the will of the international community."

ElBaradei presented the board Monday with a report backing the timetable agreed last month for Iran to answer outstanding questions over its nuclear programme.

In his opening speech to the meeting, he answered Western concerns by pointing out that Iran must do more than just fulfill the timetable.

"Iran has not suspended its enrichment-related activities," as the UN Security Council has demanded in two rounds of sanctions, ElBaradei said. "This is regrettable."

He said that "active cooperation by Iran" should "include access to locations, documents and individuals, as well as answers to all questions the agency may need to ask."

A diplomat told AFP there was still a problem as the United States and the EU want the policy-making board, rather than ElBaradei who is in charge of technical verification, to certify when Iran has resolved an issue, such as research into centrifuges to enrich uranium.

The diplomat said there was a battle over whether the chairman of the board would "take note," in other words formally recognize the timetable, when the meeting wraps up later in the week, or not mention it at all.

Schulte meanwhile repeated US concerns that Iran is only answering questions about its past nuclear work and not providing "full verification of current activities, nor does it address the continuing enrichment activities by Iran in direct contravention of Security Council requirements."

"Cooperation that is partial, conditional and only promised in the future is not enough. Cooperation that gives Iran the wherewithal to build nuclear weapons is not enough," he said.

US officials have said the Security Council must be ready to impose a third round of sanctions to get Iran to stop enriching uranium and to cooperate fully with the IAEA.

The new initiative comes more than four years since the IAEA began an investigation into US charges that Iran is using a civilian energy project to hide the development of nuclear weapons.

IAEA officials have with the timetable "found a way of dealing with the Iranians. We think they should be given a chance," a diplomat from a non-aligned nation on the agency's board told AFP.

Non-aligned states have prepared a statement which "welcomes the director general's (ElBaradei's) agreement on Iran and welcomes that questions over plutonium experiments have already been answered," the diplomat said.

 

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