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. Head of UN nuclear watchdog says optimistic over Iran
BEIJING, April 20 (AFP) Apr 20, 2009
The head of the United Nations atomic watchdog said here Monday he was optimistic about efforts to end a stand-off over Iran's nuclear drive, following positive moves from Tehran and Washington.

"I am extremely pleased with the reversal in the policy of the United States from one of confrontation to one of dialogue and mutual respect," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei told reporters.

"I have been telling my Iranian colleagues that you must reciprocate and also put (out) your hand, and what we have been hearing from Iran is also quite different. There is a much more moderate tone.

"I am very optimistic of this totally new approach and I hope it will work."

However ElBaradei said Iran could take the initiative to further promote the apparent blossoming of goodwill by allowing IAEA inspectors to do more in Iran.

"They can... allow us to visit certain facilities that we want to visit, like the heavy water reactor. And they have to come up with their own ideas of how to build confidence," he said.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said last week that Tehran would offer a new package to world powers for negotiations aimed at resolving the deadlock over its controversial nuclear programme.

Iranian media quoted Ahmadinejad as saying the package would be presented to UN Security Council permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany, the nations involved in long-running negotiations.

"Iran will hold discussions based on this new package which guarantees peace and justice in the world," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying.

He said the package was a new version of one offered in May 2008, which suggested setting up consortiums -- including one in Iran -- to enrich uranium and manufacture nuclear fuel.

The 2008 package was offered after global powers proposed economic incentives to help Iran's civilian nuclear programme in return for a halt to enrichment activities.

Uranium enrichment is a process which makes nuclear fuel as well as the core of an atom bomb, and the West fears Iran is secretly trying to build nuclear weapons -- a charge persistently denied by Tehran.

The US State Department responded to Ahmadinejad by saying it hoped that Iran's package would address "all concerns" about its nuclear activities.

The development occurred after the six nations decided to invite Iran for talks, a result of several overtures from US President Barack Obama's administration towards Tehran.

ElBaradei was speaking to reporters in Beijing at the start of a three-day conference organised by the IAEA that gathers energy ministers or other representatives from more than 60 countries to discuss nuclear power's future.

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