IAEA begins key Iran inspections, Tehran shows signs of cooperation
TEHRAN (AFP) Oct 06, 2003
An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team has begun a crucial round of inspections in Iran after reaching an accord with Iranian officials on a list of sites to visit, a top Iranian diplomat told AFP Monday.

And in a further sign that Iran was working to comply with an IAEA ultimatum over its suspect nuclear programme, Iran's representative to the IAEA Ali Akbar Salehi also said the Islamic republic had begun divulging details of its nuclear equipment imports.

"The experts from the IAEA presented us a list of sites, and we arrived at a bilateral agreement on the sites the inspectors wished to visit," Salehi, told AFP. "The inspections have now begun."

Salahi did not say whether or not Iran had agreed to open up for visits all of the sites demanded by the IAEA team, which arrived in Tehran last week for a mission the agency's chief Mohamed ElBaradei has described as "decisive".

In a resolution on September 12, the IAEA's board of governors gave Iran until October 31 to guarantee it was not developing and would not develop atomic weapons under the cover of its civil nuclear programme.

A failure by Iran to meet the deadline could see it being declared in violation of the NPT and the matter being passed to the UN Security Council.

But in a further sign that Iran was determined to meet the ultimatum, Salehi said Iran had also begun handing over lists of parts imported for its nuclear programme.

"We have already given a list of imported parts that were bought through intermediaries, and we are in the process of finishing this list," Salehi said.

He added that because some parts -- most for use in enrichment -- were purchased through middle-men, he "does not know of their origin".

The IAEA has asked Iran to come up with a detailed list of its nuclear-related equipment, notably parts used in centrifuges for uranium enrichment, in order to resolve what have been described as "outstanding issues."

On previous inspection visits, IAEA teams have found traces of highly enriched uranium at two sites, raising suspicions that despite its denials, Iran has a secret weapons programme. Tehran says the traces found their way into the country on imported equipment.

The IAEA resolution, passed after heavy US lobbying, also called on it to sign an additional protocol to the UN nuclear Non-Proliferation Treatyallowing for unscheduled inspections and implement it immediately and unconditionally.

Pending the signing of the protocol, the resolution demanded full access for inspectors.

The IAEA team currently in Iran, led by an IAEA deputy director general Pierre Goldschmidt, have yet to touch on the protocol and have instead focussed on resolving "outstanding issues", diplomats said.

In recent days, Iran has been showing mounting signs it intends to cooperate with the IAEA, despite its initial anger over what a string of officials here branded a US-Israeli-driven resolution.

After the resolution was passed, some hardliners even advocated following the path of North Korea and pulling out of the NPT altogether.

Salehi on Sunday summed up what appears to be the current policy by saying Iran intends to answer IAEA questions over its nuclear programme "as quickly as possible", even though it does not consider itself bound by the deadline.

But despite the efforts, Iranian anger over the pressure has not died down: supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted on Monday by state television as saying "the world oppressors know Iran does not have a nuclear bomb, but what worries them is that Iran can advance in science."