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. Iran must open up nuclear sites - IAEA
VIENNA (AFP) Sep 19, 2005
UN atomic agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei called on Iran to finally allow access to sensitive sites and key people as his agency met Monday to consider sending Tehran before the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

The "ball is very much in Iran's court on this issue," ElBaradei told reporters.

"We need a number of additional transparency measures," ElBaradei said, including "access to certain sites and access to certain individuals."

Referring to a clash between the West and Iran over nuclear activities the United States claims hide weapons development, ElBaradei said the Iranian issue was "regrettably going through a period of confrontation and political brinkmanship."

He said he hoped the two sides "will be going back to the negotiating table," a reference to talks between Iran and the European Union on guaranteeing Iran's nuclear program is peaceful.

ElBaradei's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is meeting this week with a Western drive for UN action against Iran's nuclear fuel programme facing opposition from Russia and non-aligned countries, diplomats said.

The United States and the European Union want the watchdog to bring Iran before the Security Council.

The Council could use measures ranging from resolutions to trade sanctions to try to get Tehran to stop making nuclear reactor fuel that can also be used to make bombs.

But Russia and China, which both have major business interests with Iran, and non-aligned states back Iran's claim to peaceful nuclear technology under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and oppose approving referral to the Security Council at this week's meeting in Vienna of the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors.

The board had last month called on Iran to halt uranium conversion, which it had resumed in early August, breaking an agreement with EU negotiators Britain, Germany and France.

Conversion is the first step in enriching uranium for reactor fuel.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Saturday told the UN General Assembly in New York that Iran would not only continue the conversion work but "considers it within its legitimate rights to receive objective guarantees for uranium enrichment in the nuclear fuel cycle."

Ahmadinejad warned that if the "IAEA resorts to a language of force and threat with Iran, we will reconsider our entire approach to the nuclear issue."

This could involve moving ahead with actual enrichment and limiting IAEA surveillance of its activities.

"We're not at a very comfortable spot right now," a senior European diplomat told AFP, saying Ahmadinejad's speech had been "disappointing" in its intractable hard line.

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