Iran may agree to tougher nuclear inspections in near future: minister
TEHRAN (AFP) Sep 06, 2003
Iran's foreign minister said Saturday that the Islamic republic may soon agree to tougher nuclear inspections if ongoing talks on the issue with the UN's atomic energy watchdog removed "ambiguities".

"With explanations and the removal of ambiguities from the IAEA, Iran will in the near future will sign the additional protocol," Kamal Kharazi was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), with major international backing, is pressing Iran to quickly sign and ratify an additional protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which would allow unannounced checks of its nuclear facilities by UN inspectors.

Iran, which has dismissed widespread suspicions that it is using an atomic energy programme as a cover for nuclear weapons development, has maintained that it needs certain points of the protocol clarified before it can sign.

Kharazi, who was speaking just days ahead of a key IAEA meeting in Vienna, gave no indication on how the talks on the protocol were progressing.

However, the foreign minister did call on the agency's board of governors not to bow to US pressure when they discuss Iran's nuclear programme in the coming days, saying he hoped their final decision on how to move ahead on the Iran dossier was "professional and not politicised".

The US ambassador to the IAEA said Thursday that Washington will push for "a strong resolution" on Iran's suspect nuclear programme at the Vienna meeting, which begins on Monday.

But he stopped short of saying that Washington and its allies on the IAEA's 35-member board of governors would push for a resolution calling it in non-compliance with the treaty. Such a resolution could send the matter to the UN Security Council, which could in turn impose tough sanctions on the Islamic republic.