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. UN nuclear watchdog meets Monday on Iran and South Korea
VIENNA (AFP) Sep 13, 2004
The UN nuclear watchdog meets Monday with Western nations agreeing time is drawing short to reach a decision on Iran's alleged atomic weapons program and South Korea's past covert research also high on the agenda.

The United States and Europe appeared close to agreement over setting a deadline for Iran to allay suspicions it is secretly making atomic weapons, but Tehran insisted on its right to develop peaceful nuclear technology.

Britain, France and Germany are ready to set a November deadline for Iran to respond to concern about its nuclear program, in a draft resolution that brings the so-called Euro 3 closer to the US hard line, diplomats told AFP Saturday.

But differences remain for the meeting in Vienna of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) 35-nation board of governors.

"We're still in negotiations with the Europeans. The jury is still out," a US official said, about talks taking place mainly by telephone.

The official said the resolution "needs to be a little clearer on what Iran needs to do" as such deadlines have in the past failed to force Iran to provide full information.

The resolution does not oblige the IAEA to take any specific action, falling short of US demands for a so-called "trigger mechanism" that would oblige the agency to take Iran before the UN Security Council for possible sanctions if certain conditions were not met, a diplomat familiar with the text told AFP.

The United States has said urgent action is needed since Iran has announced its intention to convert 37 tons of mineral uranium into a gas that is the feed for enriching uranium.

Uranium can be enriched through centrifuges into a highly refined form that can be used as fuel for civilian reactors or to make atomic bombs.

Iran said Sunday it would not accept any limitations on its right to master "peaceful" nuclear technology.

The Euro 3 draft resolution calls on IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei to file an overall report before the next board meeting in November on his investigation that began in February 2003 into an Iranian program which the United States claims hides the development of nuclear weapons.

The draft says the board would in November make a "definite determination on whether or not further steps are required," a diplomat close to the IAEA told AFP.

The Euro 3 had previously resisted setting any time limit on their policy of constructive engagement to get Iran to cooperate in the investigation.

But Iran has since reaching an agreement last October with the Euro 3 not to enrich uranium bickered over whether this extended to activities short of actual enrichment and backtracked on some promises made, such as to suspend manufacturing the centrifuges that do the enrichment.

The draft resolution does call on Iran to suspend all uranium enrichment related activities, diplomats said.

This fits the US demand for Iran to suspend the full nuclear fuel cycle.

The IAEA will be also discussing surprise developments in South Korea, where the US ally has admitted there were clandestine programs to enrich uranium and extract plutonium, a potential embarrassment for Washington in its efforts to get North Korea to abandon plans to make nuclear weapons.

Diplomats said IAEA chief ElBaradei will probably call for further investigation into South Korea, which now also runs the risk of being brought before the UN Security Council for violating the NPT.

Meanwhile, there was speculation about a blast in North Korea but the office of South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun said Sunday it was doubtful it was linked to a nuclear test.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency earlier reported a huge explosion rocked North Korea's northern inland province of Ryanggang, triggering a mushroom cloud up to four kilometers (2.4 miles) wide.

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