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. Iran warns against 'political interference' in UN inspections
VIENNA, Sept 12 (AFP) Sep 12, 2007
Iran on Wednesday said any political interference would torpedo its new round of cooperation with global nuclear inspectors as the US and the EU charged Tehran with pressing on with uranium enrichment.

"Let the IAEA do its job," Iranian ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh told reporters after a meeting of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN watchdog which verifies compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

In a reference to UN Security Council sanctions, Soltanieh said: "Any interference or politically motivated interference will definitely jeopardise the new constructive trend."

And Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani Wednesday reaffirmed Tehran's refusal to halt sensitive nuclear activities, saying such a suspension belonged to the past.

"We have already made our position clear on (suspending) uranium enrichment," told reporters in Tehran.

"We say that new possibilities should be explored... and we should not go back on the past," added Larijani, referring to a temporary suspension of enrichment agreed under the previous Iranian government.

But US ambassador Gregory Schulte told the meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors that while the new inspections were "a potentially important development . . . Iran is still not complying with the other core requirement for suspension," of uranium enrichment, which makes nuclear power reactor fuel but also atom bomb material.

The UN Security Council has already imposed two rounds of sanctions on Iran to get it to stop enriching uranium.

Noting that Iran is under the threat of new sanctions, Schulte said: "It does not inspire confidence when Iran says it can only begin to meet existing obligations to the IAEA if the Security Council does not act."

German ambassador Klaus-Peter Gottwald, who spoke on behalf of EU nuclear negotiators Britain, Germany and France, said: "We urge Iran to suspend its enrichment-related and reprocessing activities to allow for negotiations."

The United States leads Western nations in charging that Iran is using this timetable, and the time that fulfilling it will take, to avoid new UN sanctions.

Soltanieh said he wants the Iranian issue handled at the Vienna-based IAEA, rather than at the Security Council.

The IAEA board on Wednesday discussed a report from agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei which says Iran has not halted uranium enrichment.

The report also included a timetable which the IAEA agreed in August for new inspections to answer questions that remain unresolved in an agency investigation which began in February 2003 and is still unable to determine whether Iran's atomic program is peaceful.

Iran maintains that its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity but the United States accuses Tehran of using it to hide work on developing atomic weapons.

ElBaradei said the "ball is very much in the Iranian court," now that it has promised cooperation to resolve outstanding issues.

"The proof of the pudding is in the eating and we will be able in two to three months to see whether Iran is, in fact, implementing, in good faith, that Work Plan," for inspections, ElBaradei said.

He answered US and European criticism that the timetable settles one issue at a time, instead of tackling all of them simultaneously, saying that although he did not like the "sequencing," it was better than having no cooperation at all.

"I am encouraged that the international community is supporting our efforts," ElBaradei said.

"This is the first time Iran has agreed to address the outstanding issues which, in the first place, triggered the lack of confidence with regard to Iran's nuclear program," ElBaradei said.

ElBaradei repeated his proposal for a "time-out," in which Iran would suspend enrichment and the UN would suspend sanctions.

"I hope that idea will get traction, that everybody will support it, particularly Iran. This could open the way to go into a comprehensive negotiation," which he said was the only way for "a durable solution."

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