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. Nuclear inspectors back, Iran reassures worried world
TEHRAN (AFP) Jun 27, 2005
Inspectors from the UN nuclear watchdog were back at work in Iran on Monday as Tehran sought to allay international fears following the election of a hardliner as its new president.

"The wider principles of our foreign policy will not change," said Ali Agha Mohammadi, a spokesman for Iran's top national security body that is handling the delicate nuclear talks with Britain, France and Germany.

His comments came as state television reported that two inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) were back in the country "within the framework of regular inspections of designated sites."

The visit is the first since Iran's presidential election Friday which saw ultra-conservative Mahmood Ahmadinejad thrash the more moderate cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, sparking renewed fears over Iran's weapons drive.

Mohammadi said the team was in Iran to "sort out" a controversy over plutonium experiments here, which Tehran has been accused of covering up.

Like enriched uranium -- which Iran wants to make for reactor fuel -- plutonium is a bomb-making ingredient, but Mohammadi said the issue was "nearly sorted out" with the Vienna-based IAEA.

Iran has since last year frozen its fuel cycle work -- which can be diverted to bomb-making -- and has entered into talks with Britain, France and Germany, which are trying to convince Iran to abandon such activities altogether in a "Libya-style deal" that offers incentives in return.

But the clerical regime insists it has a "right" to make nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes and is refusing to give up uranium enrichment technology -- but at the same time is sticking with the negotiations.

"The Iran-EU working groups will very probably resume their activities in early July," Mohammadi said.

The European Union reiterated its commitment to nuclear talks with Iran after the election of Ahmadinejad, while British Prime Minister Tony Blair warned that the EU was not about to "go soft" on Tehran on the nuclear front.

"We expect Iran to honour its obligations," Blair said.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the United States supported the European diplomacy but voiced scepticism.

"We will see on the negotiations. We have reason to be sceptical, we've stated that before," he said. "It remains to be seen what the true intentions of the unelected few that run (Iran) really are."

Mohammadi told the ISNA news agency that the election of Ahmadinejad would certainly see changes in government departments -- but said talk of a purge was far-fetched.

Iran's team of nuclear negotiators are widely seen as loyalists of Rafsanjani.

"There will be fresh blood in the executive but that does not mean all directors will change," Mohammadi said.

"The new president will be kept abreast (of the nuclear dossier) before he takes office, and when his government is formed will be informed of everything."

Ahmadinejad formally takes over from outgoing reformst President Mohammad Khatami on August 3. The president is officially Iran's number-two after supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

In his first press conference since his stunning election win, Ahmadinejad said he would continue the nuclear talks, denied Iran was seeking nuclear weapons but stuck by the wish of the country to one day resume enrichment.

All rights reserved. 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.

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