Iran pledges to clear up nuclear problems as key hardliner falls into step
TEHRAN (AFP) Oct 31, 2003
Iran pledged Friday to clear up all ambiguities over its nuclear programme as a leading conservative opponent of Iran's acceptance of international demands for tough new safeguards fell into line.

Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency emphasized his country's cooperation in answering all questions the nuclear watchdog has about Tehran's nuclear activities.

"The wish of the Islamic Republic of Iran is that there be no ambiguous points for the IAEA, and we will do everything necessary so that the next report presented to the (IAEA) governing council is positive," the student news agency ISNA quoted Ali Akbar Salehi as saying.

Salehi said that IAEA experts currently in Iraq would stay until late Sunday.

"We have responded to all their questions and tried to clear up everything that seems important to them," he said.

"We hope that ... Iran's nuclear activities will turn a new page, resulting in cooperation between Iran and the IAEA, and between Iran and the European Community," he added.

Earlier in a sharp U-turn, Ayatollah Ahmad Janati, a key aide of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the regime had acted with wisdom in accepting the demands of the IAEA before the UN watchdog's deadline ran out Friday.

"This decision is that of the whole regime," Janati told worshippers at the main weekly prayers in Tehran.

"Incontestably, those who took this decision took into account the country's interests and are familiar with all the sensitivities of the dossier," said Janati, who just weeks ago demanded that Iran withdraw from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty altogether rather than accept demands to sign its additional protocol.

In a reference to some 1,500 hardliners demonstrating outside the mosque against the regime's climbdown, Janati called on the faithful to avoid "adopting positions on matters you do not fully understand."

Janati heads the Guardians' Council, a constitutional watchdog body that is one of the bastions of conservative power here, and his views carry weight across Iran's religious right.

As they have done every Friday in recent weeks, the protestors chanted: "Death to America, death to Britain," and denounced the regime's concessions to the international community as a "humiliation".

Janati attached a single caveat to his comments, warning the European brokers of Iran's change of heart that they must keep their side of the bargain.

"If the European side does not keep its word, all of Iran's commitments will be null and void," he warned.

In return for Iranian pledges to suspend uranium enrichment and sign up to the snap inspections of nuclear sites demanded by the additional protocol, Britain, France and Germany agreed to provide technical assistance for civil energy production, understood to include supplies of fuel.

Salehi for his part said, "If we continue with this attitude, the Europeans will certainly implement their commitments."

He added that certain US leaders had welcome the cooperation process between Iran and the IAEA, which would "represent a model of cooperation and of understanding for other (countries)."

Ahead of Friday's deadline set by the IAEA last month, Iran handed over a massive report on its nuclear programme, which IAEA director general ElBaradei said Thursday "at first glance ... looks comprehensive."

But it has yet to actually suspend uranium enrichment or formally notify the IAEA of its intention to sign the additional protocol of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty allowing snap inspections of suspect sites.

Iran's archfoe, the United States, has since expressed some scepticism about the Islamic regime's readiness to deliver on its undertakings.

An official of Iran's reformist-led government earlier rejected suggestions the regime might renege on its commitments to the international community.

"When we make an undertaking at the international level, we respect it," the official said, asking not be identified.

"We have handed over a full, clear and detailed report (on our nuclear activities). At the moment our cooperation (with the IAEA) goes beyond that required by the additional protocol.

"Once we have actually signed it, we will work within the framework laid down by the protocol."