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. Iran says it has answered plutonium questions
VIENNA, Aug 27 (AFP) Aug 27, 2007
Iran has cleared up questions from the UN atomic agency about its plutonium experiments, Iran said Monday as it made public a timetable to allay concerns that it seeks nuclear weapons.

Iran made the claim in releasing in Vienna the five-page text of a timetable for cooperation with the UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency that was agreed on in closed-door talks with IAEA officials last week in Tehran.

IAEA spokesmen refused comment but diplomats close to the agency said that in fact the question of whether Iran had experimented with plutonium more recently than it had stated had been resolved.

The United States has said that Iran is only cooperating with the IAEA to avoid further UN sanctions, and that it is still defying the UN demand for it to stop making enriched uranium.

Plutonium and enriched uranium are both part of civilian nuclear programs but can also be used to make atom bombs.

The IAEA has been investigating Iran for more than four years on US charges that the Islamic Republic is covertly developing a nuclear weapons capability behind the cloak of its civilian nuclear power programme.

The agency is so far unable to declare that Iran's programme is strictly peaceful, claiming a lack of cooperation from Tehran.

The UN Security Council has imposed two rounds of sanctions on the Islamic Republic to get it to stop uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing and to answer IAEA questions.

Three of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- Britain, France and the United States -- are in favour of debating a third set of sanctions to punish Iran's defiance, while China and Russia are more hesitant.

The IAEA is to file a report on Iran this week, ahead of a meeting of its 35-nation board of governors in September, which should be crucial in determining the level of Iranian cooperation.

"In order to conclude and close the file of the issue of plutonium," the IAEA accepted that "earlier statements made by Iran are consistent with the agency's findings, and thus this matter is resolved," said the timetable released by Iran's mission to the Vienna-based IAEA.

Iran refuses to suspend its controversial uranium enrichment work, for which it has over 2,000 centrifuges running.

Tehran has only engaged in small-scale experiments with plutonium.

A diplomat familiar with the Iranian file said the timetable "now publicly commits the Iranians to live up to their promises."

"It means Iran has a chance to prove that they are serious about clearing up their past which represents one of the main demands of the international community," said a second diplomat, who like the first requested anonmymity due to the sensitive nature of the issue.

The timetable text said Iran has already agreed to five new IAEA inspectors and is opening the door to resolving concern over documents that allegedly point to Iran having a secret military project for developing the bomb.

The goal, said a diplomat, is to answer all questions by December.

US ambassador Gregory Schulte told reporters in Vienna last week that the agreement had "real limitations" as Iran was continuing to refuse to implement the IAEA's additional protocol on wider inspections and was refusing the key UN demand to suspend uranium enrichment.

"Moreover, Iran's leadership has made clear that implementation of the plan is dependent on no Security Council action," Schulte said.

Schulte insisted the United States would continue pushing for a third round of sanctions, which diplomats said Washington wanted to happen in September.

Diplomats said however that Russia would block more sanctions at the Security Council as long as the new IAEA-Iran cooperation continued.

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