United Nations As a deadline for Iran to prove it is not building atomic weapons expired Friday, the head of the U.N. nuclear agency said Tehran appeared to be moving "in the right direction." But in Iran, thousands of hard-liners protested their country's conciliatory moves.
Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told The Associated Press the fact that the dossier Iran handed over last week on its past nuclear activities had "a lot of details ... is positive in itself."
His comments came as hard-liners rallied in several cities in Iran to protest a government decision allowing inspection of its nuclear facilities and suspending uranium enrichment.
"Death to compromisers!" the demonstrators chanted. Some wore white shrouds to symbolize their readiness to die for their cause.
The protests were larger than hard-line demonstrations held in the capital a week ago.
ElBaradei said he was informed that the Iranian government would send him a letter next week saying it would sign an additional protocol to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty giving IAEA inspectors unfettered access to its nuclear facilities.
"When this happens, it will be a very positive step forward, particularly in terms of enabling us to effectively regulate all future nuclear activities in Iran," ElBaradei said in a statement.
He told AP that Iran's commitment to suspend enrichment of uranium "as a confidence-building measure" in response to the IAEA board's resolution and in agreement with the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany was another "positive" step.
"So I think we are moving in the right direction and I hope we'll continue to make progress," ElBaradei said.
But while the Iranians have assured the IAEA that the declaration they handed over last week was "complete and accurate," ElBaradei said his inspectors must make their own determination.
Iran has been under intense pressure to fulfill the demand of the IAEA's board of governors and prove by Friday that its nuclear activities are geared only toward generating electricity -- and not toward building a weapons arsenal, as the United States contends.
Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's representative to the IAEA, said Iran's cooperation was unrelated to the Friday deadline.
"Iran has cooperated ... only on the basis of the growing trend of bilateral cooperation," state-run Tehran radio quoted Salehi as saying.
At a Tehran mosque, hard-line cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati told worshippers Iran would not respect the commitments it made unless Britain, France and Germany keep promises to offer greater cooperation on nuclear energy and nonmilitary technology.