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. Iran invites UN nuclear watchdog to visit
VIENNA (AFP) Sep 22, 2005
Iran on Thursday invited International Atomic Energy Agency director Mohammed ElBaradei to visit Tehran in a bid to clear up outstanding questions over its nuclear programme, an Iranian diplomat said, although IAEA officials said there were no plans for such a trip.

"My government has invited Dr. ElBaradei to go to Tehran. I think that would be his first visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran" since the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last June, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, Mohammad Akhondzadeh, told reporters at an IAEA board of governors meeting.

But IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said ElBaradei "has no plans to visit Tehran at this time."

A diplomat attending the meeting of the board, which is considering an EU request to bring Iran before the UN Security Council for possible sanctions, said ElBaradei would not visit Tehran "unless the Iranians have something new to tell him."

"Otherwise it will be a waste of his time and the Iranians will misuse his presence there" for propaganda, the diplomat said.

ElBaradei said in a report earlier this month that the IAEA is "still not in a position to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran" and that Tehran's full cooperation in clearing up questions is "overdue".

Iran says its nuclear program is a peaceful effort to generate electricity but the United States charges that this civilian work is just a cover for secret atomic weapons development.

Akhondzadeh said clearing up questions about Iran's nuclear activities "needs time and haste here can make terrible waste."

"We can return to negotiations and we will save time to resolve this matter in peace," he said.

Akhondzadeh did not say when the proposed ElBaradei visit might take place.

Tensions over Iran's nuclear programme worsened last month when Iran rejected demands from Britain, France, Germany that it abandon its uranium enrichment programme in exchange for incentives.

Iran also ended a freeze on enrichment-related work by resuming uranium conversion -- the first step in making enriched uranium, which can be fuel for nuclear power reactors or the raw material for atom bombs.

The country insists its fuel cycle ambitions are a right as a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

However, a number of Iranian MPs said they want to propose a bill that would suspend Iran's participation in the NPT's additional protocol, and thereby halt reinforced nuclear inspections.

"Some deputies want to present a bill to make the government suspend application of the additional protocol," parliament speaker Gholam-Ali Hadad Adel told Iran's student news agency ISNA.

Iran signed on to the NPT's additional protocol in 2003 after striking an agreement with Britain, France and Germany.

The text has never been ratified by the Iranian parliament, but Iran agreed to apply the protocol as a goodwill gesture.

On Tuesday, top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani threatened to suspend application of the additional protocol if Iran were referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions over its nuclear programme.

On Thursday European countries backed off from a bid to have Iran immediately called before the Security Council.

However, Iran has said it would stop allowing the reinforced inspections if the EU pushed through any tough resolution that included a trigger for sending the case to the Security Council.

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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