Saturday, September 04, 2004

Iran suspends centrifuge programme as UN nuclear team arrives

Daily Times - Site Edition: "Iran suspends centrifuge programme as UN nuclear team arrives

TEHRAN: Five UN nuclear inspectors arrived on Monday to try to confirm whether Iran has stopped building and assembling centrifuges and get answers to a number of outstanding questions that have raised concerns about the Persian’s nuclear programme.

Mohammad Saeedi, a top Iranian nuclear official said the experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency arrived for a series of meetings and inspections.

The inspectors’ visit coincides with a hardening of position by Iranian radicals who have called on their government to defy the UN nuclear agency, expel UN inspectors and resume uranium enrichment. The Iranian government, though, appears determined to stick to a more moderate approach in hopes of avoiding international isolation.

The United States and other nations accuse Iran of having a covert nuclear weapons programme and are pushing the United Nations to impose sanctions. Tehran insists it has only a peaceful nuclear energy programme.

Saeedi said that to win “greater international trust”, Iran stopped building and assembling centrifuges on Friday, as it promised during a one-day visit last week by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei.

It was the second such promise: Iran said on March 29 that it had already stopped building centrifuges for uranium enrichment. ElBaradei had welcomed the centrifuge announcement and said the inspectors who arrived on Monday would try to verify that all uranium enrichment activities have stopped.

During ElBaradei’s visit, Iran also committed to meeting deadlines on disclosing the source of traces of weapons-grade uranium found here and answering questions on its recently discovered programme to make advanced P-2 centrifuges to enrich uranium, possibly to weapons grade.

Iranian hard-liners have accused ElBaradei of being “America’s agent” and say that by giving in to the IAEA, Iran is giving in to US demands to surrender nuclear technology.

“The only logical option is to resume uranium enrichment, expel IAEA inspectors and withdraw from (the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty) if the IAEA continues to illegally deny Iran its rights,” hard-liner Hossein Shariatmadari wrote in an editorial last week in his newspaper, Kayhan. Shariatmadari is close to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters.

Iran says it’s losing its patience and wants IAEA to remove Iran’s nuclear dossier from its agenda by June. Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Hasan Rowhani said last week Iran will “definitely react” if its nuclear dossier is not closed by then, but said, “I don’t think the reaction will be to withdraw from NPT.” —AP"

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