IAEA Chief Announces Progress in Iran’s Case

A019550811.jpgTEHRAN (FNA) – UN nuclear chief ElBaradei voiced pleasure in the trend of progress made in resolving remaining questions over Iran’s nuclear programs, saying that he would finish the inquiry into Iran’s nuclear past ahead of his next report awaited by the IAEA Board of Governors as world powers.“We are going to have my next report to the (IAEA) Board (of Governors) sometime around the end of this month,” International Atomic Energy Agency Chief Mohammad ElBaradei told reporters in Cairo after talks with Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa.

“We are making good progress in resolving the remaining outstanding issues of the past,” said the IAEA director general, whose verdict on Iranian cooperation should logically prevent or endorse more UN sanctions against Tehran being prepared by world powers.

Iran has always stressed that its nuclear energy program is solely for generation of electricity.

During a rare Tehran visit by ElBaradei on January 11-12, Iran agreed to answer remaining questions about its past nuclear activities by mid-February.

It also handed over some information on efforts to produce “a new generation” of centrifuges able to refine uranium much faster, and for the first time allowed ElBaradei and aides to visit a workshop developing such centrifuges, diplomats said.

In Berlin last month, six world powers agreed the tentative outline of a new Security Council sanctions resolution although diplomats said the draft lacked punitive trade measures the United States had sought.

Asked about Western suspicions of Iran, ElBaradei said, “The agency can carry out inspections and give guarantees about the past and the present, but we cannot read future intentions.”

He has urged Washington to join talks with Iran rather than trying to isolate it.

Diplomats have said the IAEA is in the last stage of its investigation.

ElBaradei’s report will spell out whether Iran has done enough for the four-year-old inquiry to be wrapped up, detail information provided on development of advanced centrifuges, and provide an update on enrichment activity at its Natanz plant.

Egypt and the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council, a loose group of six oil-rich countries, have declared interest in developing nuclear power.

ElBaradei played down fears that Arab countries were interested in developing nuclear weapons.

“All Arab countries’ nuclear activities will be under the agency safeguard system so I don’t see a reason why anybody should be concerned,” he said.

The US is at loggerheads with Iran over Tehran’s independent and home-grown nuclear technology. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.

Washington’s push for additional UN penalties contradicted a recent report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran’s programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and a similar report by the IAEA head in November which praised Iran’s truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities, Russia and China increased resistance to any further punitive measures by the Security Council.

Tehran says it never worked on atomic weapons and wants to enrich uranium merely for civilian purposes, including generation of electricity, a claim substantiated by the NIE and IAEA reports.

Iran has insisted it would continue enriching uranium because it needed to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it was building in the southwestern town of Darkhovin.

Iran has also pledged to clear up all remaining questions over the program by late February.

Not only many Iranian officials, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but also many other world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports saying Iran had increased cooperation with the agency.

US President George W. Bush, who finished a tour of the Middle East earlier this month has called on his Arab allies to unite against Iran.

But hosting officials of the regional nations dismissed Bush’s allegations, describing Tehran as a good friend of their countries.

Bush’s attempt to rally international pressure against Iran has lost steam due to the IAEA and US intelligence reports.

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