Iran remains fully committed to NPT: Iran vice president
VIENNA (AFP) Sep 15, 2003
Iran remains fully committed to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) despite its objections to being handed a deadline to prove it is not developing atomic weapons, Iranian vice president and atomic energy agency chief Gholamreza Aghazadeh said Monday.

He said Iran would continue cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN watchdog which monitors compliance with the NPT treaty that obliges signatory nations to abide by strict rules to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

"Iran is fully committed to its NPT responsibilities not only because of its contractual obligation but also because of its religious and ethical considerations," Aghazadeh told a general conference in Vienna of the IAEA's 136 member states.

His comments set the record straight after Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, said in a press interview that Tehran was reconsidering its cooperation with the UN watchdog and might even withdraw from the NPT, in reaction to the IAEA imposing an October 31 date for Iranian compliance.

US Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham told reporters he hoped Aghazadeh's comments represented a real "decision to fully comply with (IAEA chief Mohamed) ElBaradei's efforts to seek and receive technical and complete answers to the questions that have been raised. Time will tell obviously."

Abraham said Iran has shown "a clear pattern of actions taken in secret to develop capabilities that obviously can be used for evil purposes, for the development of weapons."

But in Tehran, Iranian reformist president Mohammad Khatami again fiercely denied on Monday that his country was seeking nuclear weapons, the state news agency IRNA reported.

"Our slogan for the atomic bomb and weapons of mass destruction is no, no, no, but for advanced technology including peaceful nuclear technology is yes, yes, yes," Khatami said.

He added: "No one can stop us from our path. (...) We do not want atomic and nuclear technology for destroying others."

Aghazadeh said Iran was trying "to find ways and means that would salvage" the safeguards process of the NPT.

"We are studying the (IAEA) resolution carefully and will respond to it officially in a few days," he said.

But he stressed: "Our cooperation with the agency within the framework of the comprehensive safeguards shall continue as before."

Aghazadeh also said Iran would continue negotiating on a protocol to allow IAEA inspectors to make wider, surprise inspections of suspect sites.

The United States charges that Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons but the Islamic Republic denies this.

Aghazadeh condemned the United States for using a "heavy-handed approach" to force through the deadline in a resolution at a meeting last Friday of the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors.

He said the US tactics were part of an "agenda" that "is conceived in escalating tension and chaos to divert attention from serious issues that deal with partisan politics in the United States."

"This is unilateralism at its worst (...) extreme unilateralism imposed under a multilateralist cloak," Aghazadeh said.

He said the resolution, which gave Iran some six weeks to answer all the IAEA's questions about Tehran's nuclear program, was "engineered in such a manner as to guarantee its non- or half-implementation," implying that Iran was being condemned in advance.

Abraham said Iran has already had "plenty of time" to come clean on its nuclear program.

"Either you're pursuing a program that is a peaceful use program, and if you are you have nothing to hide, or you're not," Abraham said.

The US energy secretary stressed that the international community needs to look at how states like North Korea made progress on developing nuclear weapons even while belonging to the NPT.

North Korea has "sent a worrisome message to other would-be proliferants," Abraham said.