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. IAEA meets to discuss Iran
VIENNA, March 3 (AFP) Mar 03, 2008
The UN atomic watchdog was set to begin a week-long meeting here Monday with Iran again topping the agenda as the UN Security Council in New York prepares to slap further sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

The International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-member board of governors was scheduled to sit down to its traditional March meeting at 10:30 am (0930 GMT), with IAEA Director General Mohammed ElBaradei to hold the opening address.

The main focus of the week's discussions will be ElBaradei's latest report on Iran.

Released on February 22, the report found that while Tehran had cleared up most of the outstanding questions on its nuclear programme, it was still refusing point blank to address allegations about its purported work on nuclear weapons.

Furthermore, it confirmed that Iran was pursuing, and even expanding, its uranium enrichment, in flagrant violation of UN demands.

Later on Monday, the UN's 15-member Security Council would begin its own consultations in New York on a third sanctions resolution against Iran.

Diplomats close to the Vienna-based watchdog said that Iran would face a tough time here in the wake of allegations -- backed up by detailed intelligence presented to the board last week -- suggesting Tehran was involved in weaponisation studies that would not make sense for conventional weapons.

The information also suggested Iran continued nuclear weapons work beyond the 2003 date cited in a recent US intelligence report.

Tehran's only response so far has been to dismiss the allegations as baseless and the intelligence used to back them as fake, much to the frustration of IAEA, which, despite five years of investigations, has been unable to confirm once and for all that Iran's nuclear activities are entirely peaceful.

Clearing up the allegations was "a matter of serious concern and critical to an assessment of a possible military dimension to Iran's nuclear programme," the agency warned.

In a bid to turn up the heat on Tehran, moves are afoot, say some diplomats close to the IAEA, to table a resolution at the board meeting pressing Tehran to come clean on its disputed atomic drive.

It would be the first such resolution in nearly two years and would effectively be a signal of the IAEA board's growing impatience with the Islamic Republic and its perceived foot-dragging on the nuclear dossier.

Nevertheless, diplomats suggest a decision would likely depend on what happened in New York at the UN Security Council.

In addition, the so-called Non-Aligned Movement countries, which include Cuba and South Africa, are sceptical about the authenticity of the intelligence and believe a resolution on the part of the IAEA is unnecessary, diplomats here said.

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