Iran to maintain cooperation with UN nuclear watchdog - senior official
VIENNA (AFP) Jun 16, 2004
Iran intends to maintain its cooperation with the UN atomic agency, a senior Iranian official said early Wednesday, after threatening responses from Tehran to new agency pressure about Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program.

"I think we would continue (cooperation) definitely in the framework of the (nuclear) Non-Proliferation Treaty and safeguards," Seyed Hossein Mussavian, head of the foreign policy committee of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, told AFP in Vienna overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday.

Mussavian is heading Iran's delegation to a meeting here of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which verifies compliance with the NPT and has been investigating Iran's nuclear program since February 2003.

Britain, France and Germany had proposed a draft resolution to IAEA Tuesday calling for a probe into Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program to be toughened and wrapped up in months, despite new Iranian threats to break off cooperation.

The draft picked up on IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei's hardening the tone of his agency's investigation into Iran's nuclear program, which the United States says is secretly developing atomic weapons.

The United States wants the IAEA to send the Iranian dossier to the UN Security Council which could impose sanctions on Iran while Iran wants the IAEA to simply close the dossier, as it feels it has answered most of the IAEA's questions.

In Tehran Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi accused Britain, France and Germany of bowing to US pressure.

Kharazi said now was not the time to get tougher with Iran, since hardliners in the Iranian parliament could delay the ratification of Iran's signature last year of the additional protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a text that obliges the country to accept tighter IAEA inspections.

In Tehran Tuesday, President Mohammad Khatami told the so-called Euro-3 in writing to ease the pressure, or risk pushing Iran to consider "other alternatives," according to press reports.

It was not clear what Khatami, a reformist, meant by "other alternatives", although some hardliners in the regime have been calling for Iran to respond to the pressure by pulling out of the NPT altogether.

Mussavian said the ultimate decision on what Tehran would do was up to the government and parliament, which would decide based on the outcome of the meeting this week in Vienna of the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors.

"But I don't believe anyone would withdraw," from the NPT, the basis of cooperation with the IAEA, Mussavian said.

He said, however, that the Euro-3 draft resolution was unacceptable to Iran, especially a paragraph that calls on Iran to, as the draft says "reconsider its decisions" to begin tests at a Uranium Conversion Facility, a key step in the nuclear fuel cycle.

Uranium enriched to high levels by centrifuges can be nuclear fuel but also the explosive for atom bombs.

Mussavian said that uranium conversion is not forbidden by the NPT or any safeguards agreements.

The IAEA is asking Iran to do this, however, as a confidence-building measure.

But Mussavian said Iran had already complied with "three major requests" from the IAEA to provide information and to voluntarily suspend uranium enrichment activities.

He said there were two remaining issues -- contamination of some equipment by highly enriched uranium (HEU) and Iranian research into advanced P-2 centrifuges -- which he expected to be "clarified in the remaining months."

Mussavian said it was time for the IAEA's board to close the Iranian dossier and let the IAEA secretariat handle the rest of the investigation.

"Iran has really cooperated beyond the (NPT additional) protocol and safeguards to show goodwill," Mussavian said.

"The (IAEA) board of governors should know that confidence is not a one-way street," he said.

But ElBaradei had told the board Monday that the two questions of contamination and P-2's remained open, especially since "information provided by Iran with regard to the P-2 centrifuge program, after repeated requests, has been changing and at times contradictory."

David Albright, a Washington-based nuclear expert, told AFP by phone that "substantial technical issues" remain in the Iranian file and that "Iran has not been pro-active enough" in providing information.

"They tend to react only when asked," Albright said.