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. Iran sees only "marginal" problems ahead with UN nuclear watchdog
TEHRAN (AFP) Aug 29, 2004
Iran has answered all "serious questions" about its nuclear activities but says some "marginal problems" could arise when the UN's atomic energy agency meets next month, a spokesman said Sunday.

"The serious questions have all been responded to and there is no more ambiguity," foriegn ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters two weeks before the next International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting.

Asefi said the next IAEA report due to be released in the coming days would also note "progress" in the work of inspectors currently probing the Islamic republic's nuclear activities.

"We are virtually sure that the agency's report will not provide any pretext for the case to be referred to the Security Council" Asefi said.

The United States, which accuses Iran of developing nuclear weapons under cover of generating atomic power, wants Tehran to be declared in breach of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and referred to the United Nations for possible sanctions.

Iran says it is not interested in nuclear arms, and is only trying to meet future energy needs.

Nevertheless, Asefi said that "prior experience has shown that before a meeting (of the IAEA), certain marginal problems can surface."

One potential problem, he said, was that of a military site at Lavizan in Tehran -- which drew suspicions after satellite photos showed Iran has razed the site and removed topsoil.

Results from IAEA inspections there are also expected in the coming weeks, although Iran has said the site was not a part of its nuclear activities. It said it was merely clearing the military installations to make a public park.

"We allowed (the IAEA) to take samples," Asefi said of the site. "We have nothing to worry about."

IAEA inspectors have been working here since early 2003, and are still trying to establish the exact nature of Iran's nuclear activities.

But since inspections began, the Vienna-based body has regularly complained of contradictions and omissions in Iran's reporting, even though Iran has agreed to sign up to tougher inspections.

According to diplomats at IAEA headquarters in Vienna, the agency's governing board was unlikely to say in its report whether Iran's nuclear activities are of a military nature and would not recommend referring the case to the Security Council.

However, one source said the report would not deliver "a so-called clean bill of health, which would allow Iran to say that they should be taken off the agenda of the board of governors" of the agency.

Another problem for Iran is that the three main European powers -- Britain, France and Germany -- have been pushing it to abandon its fuel cycle work altogether, even if such work is technically permitted under the NPT.

Many sceptics say that by pushing on with the fuel cycle, Iran is seeking to acquire the "option" to develop the bomb at a later date. Iran, however, has asserted it has the right to make its own nuclear fuel and not be reliant on foreign imports.

President Mohammad Khatami said the IAEA should "recognise our right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes and accept us into the club".

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