Top Iranian official insists Iran is respecting nuclear safeguards
TEHRAN (AFP) Jan 15, 2004
A top Iranian official has asserted the Islamic republic is respecting its nuclear safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency, amid allegations the country is continuing to assemble centrifuges that can be used to enrich uranium.

"The IAEA is aware that since last November we have suspended our enrichment program," Hassan Rowhani, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, was quoted as saying in Paris on Wednesday.

He also said the country was allowing full IAEA inspections, having last months signed an additional protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) allowing surprise visits of its nuclear facilities.

"We have accepted the protocol and we will precisely work within its contents," Rowhani was quoted as saying by Iranian media. "Since the Islamic Republic's nuclear activities are peaceful, we are not worried about the inspections."

Rowhani, who negotiated late last year with France, Britain and Germany over Iran's cooperation with the IAEA, is currently on a three-day visit to Paris.

His comments came after diplomats close to the IAEA said Iran was still acquiring material to build centrifuges as it differs with the UN nuclear watchdog over how to fulfil a pledge to suspend activities that can produce atomic weapons-grade material.

Iran had pledged in November to suspend uranium enrichment as a confidence-building measure, in answer to US charges that Tehran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran vehemently denies these charges.

But diplomats said Iran has interpreted its pledge to suspend uranium enrichment in a narrow sense, stopping such activities at its Natanz nuclear fuel-making plant, but continuing to assemble centrifuges in case it decides to resume making highly-enriched uranium, which can be used both as fuel for reactors or to make the bomb.

While enriching uranium for reactors is not banned by the NPT, key IAEA members France, Britain and Germany are pushing Iran to stop all work on the sensitive nuclear fuel cycle in return for the provision of fuel from overseas.

The IAEA has condemned Iran for nearly two decades of covert nuclear activities, although it says there is no proof Tehran is trying to build a bomb, and warned against future breaches of international non-proliferation obligations.