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Archive for Sunday, June 22, 2003

Iran vows nuclear cooperation — with caveat

Tehran reserves option of enriching uranium but denies plans to build bomb

June 22, 2003

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— Iran will cooperate more with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the country's atomic chief said Saturday, but he suggested Tehran would ignore one agency request by maintaining plans to enrich uranium -- a key step in making atomic bombs.

Meanwhile, the head of the U.N. agency said in Jordan he was assured Saturday that Iran was "ready to cooperate fully."

The United States suspects Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb -- a charge Iran denies. Tehran says its nuclear operations are meant to provide electricity, particularly after oil reserves run dry.

The International Atomic Energy Agency urged Iran last week to allow continued inspections of its suspect facilities and to desist from enriching nuclear fuel.

On Saturday, Iran's nuclear chief, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, told reporters, "We will try to step up our cooperation with the IAEA. Our cooperation with the agency will be comprehensive and at a level acceptable to the agency."

Asked whether Iran would heed the IAEA's call to stop efforts to enrich uranium, Aghazadeh said Iran would go ahead with its nuclear plans.

"The IAEA has not asked us to stop plans to enrich uranium. It was the opinion of some countries, not the agency, to only delay shipment of materials to Natanz plant," he said.

Natanz, which is about 200 miles south of Tehran, is where a centrifuge plant is being built.

In Jordan, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said he was assured of Iran's full cooperation. ElBaradei was attending a meeting of business and political leaders on Mideast issues.

Aghazadeh suggested Saturday he was standing behind earlier statements that Iran would not permit environmental sampling at "some locations" because it was "contrary to agreements signed (between Iran and the IAEA)."

The United States demanded the IAEA force Iran to open up its nuclear program.

It also wanted Tehran declared in violation of the international Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which would allow the issue to go before the U.N. Security Council for possible action.

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