Monday, September 06, 2004

New Mexican ambassador meets with Rafsanjani

Description of Selected News: "New Mexican ambassador meets with Rafsanjani

TEHRAN (IRNA) -- Mexico's new Ambassador to Tehran Luis Monasterio here on Monday met with Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani to discuss subjects of mutual interest, particularly expansion of relations.
Rafsanjani, noting the two countries' potentials, said there was a need to bolster the current level of cooperation.
Rafsanjani further said that relations between the two countries was a bridge that linked the two regions and was a strategy both countries could avail to their mutual advantage.
Rafsanjani said it was important that the two countries bolster their commercial, cultural and industrial ties, adding that their mass media should also be active in bringing the two states into global focus.
Iranian officials are ready to expand their cooperation with Mexico in several fields, Rafsanjani stressed.
The Mexican ambassador took the occasion to elaborate on the political, social and economic conditions in his country.
He said it is his country's desire to bolster relations with a country such as Iran which has a long, rich history.
He said that both sides can take effective strides in cooperation by starting in the field of joint scientific researches in areas such as agriculture, industry, and the transfer of gas."

Hassan Rowhani in talks with Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende

Description of Selected News: "Tehran urges strategic cooperation between Iran and EU

TEHRAN (MNA) -- Iran’s top nuclear negotiator and the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Hassan Rowhani told the Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende on Monday that Iran has lived up to all its commitments toward the Tehran Declaration and expects Europe to do the same.

Rowhani said the dealings between Iran and the European Union has reached a very sensitive stage adding that the full implementation of the Tehran Declaration by the European Union is the key to development of ties.

Tehran and the EU big three (Germany, France and Britain) struck a deal on October 21 last year paving the way for nuclear cooperation between Iran and the European Union. In this deal Iran agreed to sign the additional protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and suspend its nuclear enrichment program and the EU in return agreed to recognize Iran’s right to a peaceful use of nuclear energy and help transfer nuclear technology to Iran.

Iran is quite prepared to implement all its nuclear activities under the NPT and the additional protocol and in return expects Europe to recognize the Islamic Republic’s inalienable right to peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to cooperate with Iran in this regard without any limits.

On the new round of talks between Iran and the EU trio, Rowhani said negotiations for achieving long-term cooperation has been started and Iran is ready to give new assurances to the international community about the peaceful nature of its nuclear program.

Iran plans to build nuclear plants in order to generate 7000 megawatts of electricity and for this purpose Iran and the EU can promote long-term cooperation in the field of high technology, the top Iranian nuclear negotiator noted.

Turning to the fight against terrorism, he said many Iranian security forces have been killed in the fight against terrorists.

Rowhani added that some of the arrested terrorists have been expelled to their own countries and some of them have been held and put on trial in Iran.

Pointing to the security in the Persian Gulf, Central Asia and the Middle East the Iranian security official said Iran is ready to cooperate with Europe in keeping peace and security in the region.

Balkenende, for his part, touched on EU-Iran relations and said EU should make use of every opportunity to develop its ties with Tehran.

Referring to the points where Iran and EU differ, Balkenende said EU welcomes cooperation between Iran and the United Nations nuclear watchdog and calls for more cooperation in this regard.

He also pointed to strategic cooperation between Iran and the EU for the fight against terrorism and the deployment of weapons of mass destruction. He also noted that a global strategy is needed for a comprehensive fight against the scourge of terrorism and the spread of WMD.

The Dutch prime minister also stressed the need to promote cooperation between the 25-memebr bloc and Iran for maintaining stability and security in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf, the Middle East and Central Asia.

The Netherlands currently holds the European Union presidency."

Shariatmadari: Iran-Thailand Preferential tariff agreement to be signed soon

Description of Selected News: "

Iran-Thailand Preferential tariff agreement to be signed soon

Tehran Times Business Desk
TEHRAN (MNA)-- Expansion of cooperation on tourism and transportation, and signing preferential tariff agreement as well as free trade between Iran and Thailand were stressed during the 7th Session of Joint Economic and Trade Commission of the two countries, news reports said here on Monday.

In this session, Iran’s Minister of Commerce Shariatmadari pointed to the special economic condition of the country during the Iraqi imposed war (1980- 1988), and said: “Given the country’s special situation during the war, Iran’s economy was of a completely closed nature. However, the country underwent two phases of post-war reconstruction to pave the ground for free trade initiatives,” Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported. The minister asserted, “Ratification of the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act (FIPPA) in the country and guaranteeing the return of the original capital and pertinent profits by the government, permitting the establishment of private banks and insurances companies in the free trade zones, revision of taxation laws and cutting taxes levied on foreign investment from 65% to 25% are some indications of Iran’s move towards free trade.” Shariatmadari alluded to the single parity forex rate policy, and establishing the Forex Reserve Fund as two major achievements and noted that the excess oil income is saved in this account. According to him, the fund is absolutely used to offer loans at international rates to foreign investors. “The fund has so far paid loans worth 4.5 billion dollars to the private sector.”

During the session, Shariatmadari welcomed the beginning of Iran–Thailand cooperation in Kish Island."

Afghan Immigrants in Iran Forced to Leave Yazd�s Historical Fabric

Afghan Immigrants in Iran Forced to Leave Yazd�s Historical Fabric: "Afghan Immigrants in Iran Forced to Leave Yazd’s Historical Fabric
Following some urban problems such as deteriorating health of residents and insecurity, Afghan immigrants in the Iranian central city of Yazd have received a one-month deadline to quit its historical fabric, Iranian Cultural Heritage News Agency reported.

In line with a grand plan to restore the ancient city, the long-tolerated immigrants must evacuate the city by September 21, said Mohammad Reza Seyyed Husseini, provincial head of the Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization in Yazd.

“Unfortunately the historical fabric of Yazd has seen the emigration of native residents and immigration of alien and foreign people instead,” he asserted.

Officials have long warned the area has become rife with drug related crimes since some Afghans indulge in narco-trafficking.

The city of Yazd is located to the north of Ardestan, to the south of Taft in the east of Bafq and to the west of Isfahan province. Yazd is the center of the province and is located 689 kilometers from Tehran. It is located in an extensive valley facing the desert. Consequently, its weather is hot and arid in summer and cold in winter.

The city of Yazd’s first mention in historic records predate it back to around 3000 years BC when it was related to by the name of Ysatis, and was then part of the domain of Medes, an ancient settler of Iran. In the course of history due to its distance from important capitals and its harsh natural surrounding, Yazd remained immune to major troops' movements and destruction from wars, therefore it kept many of its traditions, city forms and architecture until recent times. During the invasion of Genghis Khan in the early 1200’s AD Yazd became a safe haven and home for many artists, intellectuals and scientists fleeing their war ravaged cities around Persia.

For a brief period, Yazd was the capital of Atabakan and Mozaffarid dynasties (14th Century AD). During Qajar dynasty (18th Century AD) it was ruled by the Bakhtiari Khans.

The City and province of Yazd hold many wonders of historic and architectural significance. A Zoroastrian Fire Temple in Yazd holds a traditional fire which has been kept alight by Zoroastrian priests, continuously for over 1100 years.

The Fort of Naren is Iran’s largest mud brick structure predating Islam. Caravansaries, Islamic architecture including the Jamea Mosque and many other works and art forms go back over 1000 years. Yazd’s wind-towers, which act as natural cooling systems for homes and public structures, remain a marvel of world architectural design and innovation. In addition, the city sat on the path of the ancient Silk Road and was the lodging and visiting spot for many travelers and merchants. Marco Polo in his travelogues titles the city: “the noble city of Yazd”"

Israel Loses Eye on Iran as Satellite Launch Fails

Science News Article | "Israel Loses Eye on Iran as Satellite Launch Fails
Mon Sep 6, 2004 12:19 PM ET

By Dan Williams
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Israeli spy satellite meant to boost the Jewish state's surveillance over arch-enemy Iran met a watery end on Monday as a launch malfunction hurled it out to sea rather than space, officials and defense sources said.

The Defense Ministry blamed a failure in the third stage of the Shavit rocket for the loss of the $50 million Ofek-6 satellite. Witnesses saw a flash of light near the launch site, coastal Palmahim air base. There were no reports of casualties.

Ofek-6 -- the latest in an Israeli line of spy satellites first put into orbit in 1988 -- was destroyed when it crashed into the Mediterranean Sea. It was developed by a consortium led by state-owned Israel Aircraft Industries.

The loss of the satellite was seen as a major setback to Israel's attempts to upgrade means of tracking sworn enemies such as Iran, which it accuses of developing nuclear weapons.

Satellites are Israel's first bullwark against ballistic missiles, being designed to spot the incoming threats as they break through the atmosphere after launch and then alert defensive systems such as the Arrow II missile-killer.

"Such incidents are very expensive for all involved," a defense source said about Monday's botched launch. Work on a replacement satellite was expected to take up to two years.

The rocket malfunction could also have ramifications for Israel's offensive capabilities. According to independent analysts, the Shavit closely resembles Israel's ballistic missile Jericho-2, which can carry non-conventional warheads. The ministry named Israel Military Industries, Rafael, Elbit Systems and the Elisra Group, which is 70 percent owned by Koor Industries, as partners in the satellite's development.

Ofek -- Hebrew for "horizon" -- orbits 190 to 430 miles above Earth, over a pre-set flight path. It weighs 660 pounds and has a life span of about five years.

The setback came days after Arrow II failed to shoot down a dummy missile in a test-firing off the California coast.

Israeli officials blamed a technical glitch on the failure of the Arrow missile to hit its target, but said the world's first missile-killer had passed the main reason for the test which was to identify the incoming threat and its warhead.


EU Business - Iran says ready for nuclear surveillance

EU Business - Iran says ready for nuclear surveillance: "Iran says ready for nuclear surveillance

06 September 2004

The spokesman for Iran's reformist cabinet said Monday the Islamic republic was willing to show greater transparency over its nuclear programme in order to ease suspicions of bomb-making.

"We are ready to accept all kinds of surveillance to remove the fears of the international community," said Abodollah Ramazanzadeh, asserting Iran's commitment to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and its additional protocol.

Iran is a signatory to the NPT and in December 2003 signed the additional protocol, which allows tougher inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The Iranian parliament, now controlled by conservatives, has yet to ratify that protocol.

Ramazanzadeh also reiterated Iran's refusal to abandon its work on the nuclear fuel cycle, which although permitted under the NPT is feared as providing Iran with a nuclear weapons option later on.

"We have accepted to voluntarily suspend uranium enrichment, but it is illogical to ask us to renounce enrichment," he said at his weekly press conference.

Officials have announced that Iran's top national security official was travelling to Europe Monday to forestall US efforts to haul the Islamic republic before the UN Security Council over its nuclear programme.

The foreign ministry said Hassan Rowhani would travel to the Netherlands -- current holder of the EU presidency -- for a series of high-level talks ahead of a fresh IAEA meeting on September 13.

Rowhani's mission will follow a weekend meeting in the Netherlands of European leaders, who appeared to be torn between pursuing efforts to engage Iran and calls for a harder line over Tehran's nuclear aims.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is merely aimed at generating atomic energy."

PINR - Iran's Bid for Regional Power: Assets and Liabilities

PINR - Iran's Bid for Regional Power: Assets and Liabilities: "''Iran's Bid for Regional Power: Assets and Liabilities''
ensions between Iran and the United States have recently heated up to the point that some analysts, particularly in the Arab world, surmise that the struggle between the Iraqi transitional government and the Shi'a resistance led by Moqtada al-Sadr is essentially a proxy war between the two countries.

Iran has been the instigator of the present surge in tensions, taking advantage of the military and diplomatic vulnerabilities of the United States that were revealed by Washington's campaign for regime change in Iraq. Despite deep internal divisions in Iran over the vision of its future (Western or Islamic), all of its significant political forces are nationalist, uniting on the premise that any foreign attempts to change the Iranian regime and forfeit the revolution (however its meaning is interpreted) are unwelcome, indeed, intolerable, and are to be firmly resisted.

Political forces in Iran are also at one in the belief that the country should pursue a policy of enhancing its military machine to make it an effective deterrent against external attack, and expanding its influence as a regional power in all directions. Tehran's bid to alter the regional balance of power in its favor is evidenced by its increasing defiance of international controls over its nuclear program and its financial and probably military support of a wide spectrum of Shi'a movements and factions in southern Iraq.

Iran's actions have sparked a strong reaction from the United States, which has made it clear, through National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, that the United States will not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. Rice's threat was answered by Iranian Defense Minister Admiral Ali Shamkhari with the comment that there were established political circles in Iran recommending preemptive military "replies" against any entity that "decides to inflict harm" on the country. Despite the bellicose rhetoric from both sides, there is no direct war between the two adversaries in the immediate works. The rhetoric is an indicator of Iran's push for power and America's attempts to resist that push.

Iran's Strategic Scenarios

That Iran is the protagonist and the United States the antagonist in the current tensions means that the Iranian regime senses the opportunity to enhance its power position. Several strategic scenarios dominate Iranian thinking, reflecting the possibilities that policymakers perceive in the current situation.

The best-case scenario for Iran is that the U.S. military is forced to withdraw from Iraq, leaving Iran with a dominant sphere of influence over a Shi'a-dominated Iraq or a breakaway Shi'a mini-state in the south, and that Iran is able to achieve nuclear weapons capability. Were this outcome to occur, Iran would be the dominant power in the Persian Gulf, displacing the United States.

The worst-case scenario is that the United States or Israel launches a preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear complex, possibly associated with American military efforts at regime change.

In between the two extreme cases is a gamut of more realistic scenarios. On the favorable side, Iran would exhaust the United States in southern Iraq through its support of resistance and would drag out negotiations on its nuclear program by exploiting divisions among external powers working through international agencies. On the unfavorable side, Iran would be excluded from influence in Iraq by an American-oriented regime, would suffer economic sanctions for failing to submit its nuclear program to international supervision or would feel constrained to give up that program, and would be diplomatically isolated.

The recent assertive behavior of Iran suggests that it is determined to resist any concessions on its perceived vital interests, risking the worst-case and other unfavorable scenarios in order to realize as many of its ambitions as possible.

Iran's Strategic Situation

The scenarios projected by Iranian policymakers are relative to Iran's strategic situation. That situation is marked by threats to and opportunities for Iran's vital interests, giving rise to the range of possibilities from best-case to worst-case scenarios. In seeking to ward off threats and exploit opportunities, policymakers are constrained to play a hand that has assets and liabilities.


The most important obstacle to Iran's drive for regional power is the presence of U.S. ground forces in its eastern neighbor Afghanistan and its western neighbor Iraq, and U.S. naval and air forces in the Persian Gulf. Iran is partially encircled by the United States, whose explicit best-case scenario is Iranian regime change. The immediate proximity of American military forces results in a bias among policymakers towards building up military security above any other priority.

Iran's nuclear program, which it insists is only for peaceful purposes, but is likely for weapons capability, is only one part of an ongoing Iranian program for military self-dependence in the face of sanctions. Iran recently successfully tested a new version of its Shahab-3 missile with a range of 810 miles and a capability of striking Israel. Iran also produces tanks, armored personnel carriers and a fighter plane. Yet, Iran would still be no match for a full-scale American attack -- its only effective deterrent would be nuclear weapons. Iranian policymakers are aware that the American threat is ever present, even if it has receded for the moment.

Iran also faces a military threat from Israel, which might launch a preemptive strike against Iran's Bushehr reactor and is reportedly working with Iraqi Kurds to destabilize the Iranian regime. Iran has recently threatened to bomb Israel's nuclear complex at Dimona if Israel attacks Bushehr. As the country that feels most threatened by Iran, Israel has a vital interest in eliminating Iran's nuclear program or at least setting it back seriously. Iranian policymakers can do very little about the Israeli threat and have begun a program to install technologies and procedures to minimize the effects of the release of radiation that would follow a successful strike on Bushehr.

Iranian ambitions to create a sphere of influence in Iraq are not only checked by the American military presence, but also by divisions in Iraq's Shi'a population and leadership, a large proportion of which are nursing the prospect of Shi'a dominance over Iraq following scheduled elections in January of 2005. At present they are not seeking Iranian protection, although they are willing to accept Iranian aid.

Internally, Iran is socially divided by the familiar split that has marked countries on the borders of the West, such as Russia and Turkey, between Westernizers and traditionalists. In Iran's complex post-revolutionary political institutions, the executive is currently controlled by the reformists, and the parliament, judiciary and supreme religious authorities by the theocrats. Outside the state institutions, the increasingly youthful population generally favors a loosening of theocratic rule and a more Western lifestyle. With the successful suppression of reformists in the last parliamentary elections, the theocrats have engineered a short-term victory at the cost of intensifying social polarization.

Washington's strategy towards Iran makes the division between Westernizers and traditionalists the centerpiece of plans for regime change. Iranian exile groups and American neo-conservatives argue that an aggressive policy of weakening the Iranian regime, if not an invasion of the country, would unleash the forces of Westernization and bring Iran into the circle of American-led capitalist globalization. Iranian policymakers, increasingly dominated by the traditionalists, have responded to the social and political divide by appealing to the need to defend the country's integrity above any other interest.


Counterbalancing the negatives in Iran's strategic environment are a number of assets that give it the room for maneuver necessary to pursue its ambitions. Most importantly, the U.S. military is overextended from its Iraq and Afghanistan missions, and its continuing needs and commitments to maintain Asian and European presences. It is unlikely at present that the United States is militarily ready or politically capable of mounting an operation against Iran similar to the one that it undertook in Iraq.

Iran is also a much more formidable adversary than was Ba'athist Iraq. Its population of 70 million dwarfs Iraq's 26 million and, unlike Iraq, Iran is not a construction of colonial rule combining diverse ethnic and religious groups without a common history, but an ethnically and religiously homogeneous society with a long history of independence and a strong sense of nationalism. Iran's military is also more capable than Iraq's was, and it is a center of post-revolutionary nationalism. In its war with Iraq in the 1980s, Iran absorbed heavy losses and eventually repelled an aggressor that had the backing of the United States.

If the United States attempted to occupy Iran, it could not use the divide-and-rule strategy that it has employed in Iraq. The Iranian regime banks on the expectation that in the case of external attack, nationalism will override the rift between Westernizers and traditionalists. Analysts in the Middle East generally agree that the regime's judgment is correct.

Iran's trump card is the geopolitical fact that it is a major oil producer bordering other major oil producers. A large-scale war undertaken by the United States would almost surely lead to a disruption of world oil supplies and the danger that Iran would use its missiles to attack Saudi or Gulf state oil complexes.

Iran also has a strategic ally in Syria, which shares with it the same security interests and borders Iraq on the west. The Iranian and Syrian regimes have been conferring closely since the American occupation of Iraq and have a common line that the United States should withdraw from the region. Russia is a benevolent neutral, perhaps ally, providing help with Iran's nuclear program and interested in diminishing American power in the region.

The European powers are ambivalent, subject to American pressure to bring the issue of Iran's nuclear program to the United Nations Security Council, where sanctions could be imposed, and desirous of pursuing economic interests in Iran. Thus far, Iran's policy of "commercializing" relations with Europe has been a relative success, leading to reluctance by the Europeans to follow the American hard line. Instead, they have followed an independent diplomatic path to resolve the nuclear question. Recently, as Iran has taken a harder line toward the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Europeans have begun to tilt toward the United States, but it is still not certain that they will back a sanctions regime.

Finally, it is possible that Iran can turn the presence of American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan to its advantage. Historically, Iran has had close contact with, and political and cultural influence in, the regions on its eastern and western borders. Longstanding economic and cultural interchange gives Iran footholds in the west of Afghanistan and the southeast of Iraq, which it is presently using to back political forces that favor its strategic interests. In a wide ranging interview with al-Jazeera television on August 19, Iranian Defense Minister Shamkhari observed that the American military presence in its neighbors "is not power for the United States because this power may under certain circumstances become a hostage in our hands."

When the positives and negatives of Iran's strategic situation are weighed, it becomes clear that the complex balance of opportunities and threats provides the opportunity for Iran to try to expand its regional power at considerable risk. The reasoning of the hardliners, who are gaining increasing control over Iranian foreign and security policy, is that Iran has little choice but to attempt to strengthen itself by militarizing and pressing for spheres of influence, since the alternative is acceptance of American hegemony in the Persian Gulf. Their posture is primarily defensive, but they believe that the best defense at the present time is an assertive one. They will act with the best-case scenario in mind as they maneuver to avoid the worst case, resorting to brinkmanship and tactical retreats.


Iran plays its hand through one of the most complex sets of political institutions in the contemporary world. Not only are clerical institutions overlaid on the conventional executive, legislature and judiciary, but different factions have vested influence and authority within each of them. Iran does not speak with one voice or act with one hand. Indian political analyst Hamid Ansari observes that Iran's shifting stances of conciliation and defiance, and its elliptical and contradictory policy statements are "fully reflective of the multiplicity of centers that characterize the decision-making mechanism of the Islamic Republic."

Unlike Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Iran has a polycentric politics, in which decisions on security and foreign policy are the result of shifting alliances and independent initiatives. This complexity leads to the simultaneous pursuit of seemingly opposed policies, but it would be a mistake to interpret it as a sign of weakness, since all participants are committed to Iranian independence and integrity.

Iran's polycentric decision-making system is, in fact, a source of strength in its current situation, since it leads structurally, rather than by design, to a multi-pronged strategy that hits all possible vulnerabilities of its adversaries, confuses them and allows for flexibility. If one policy fails, it will be deemphasized in favor of another. If one faction is discredited, another is ready to take its place. If all possible proxies in Iraq and Afghanistan are backed by one Iranian faction or another, downside risk is minimized and opportunity is enhanced. If reformists pursue commercialization of foreign relations and hard line traditionalists pursue militarization, Iran potentially gets the benefit of both tracks.

It is impossible to predict whether Iran will succeed or fail in its bid for security and regional power, but its regime has impressive and surprising assets that work in its favor.

Report Drafted By:
Dr. Michael A. Weinstein"

Daily News Exclusive: Eye Pentagon in leak of spy secrets to Iran

New York Daily News - Home - Daily News Exclusive: Eye Pentagon in leak of spy secrets to Iran: "Eye Pentagon in leak of spy secrets to Iran


WASHINGTON - The FBI is probing whether Pentagon officials shared secrets about Iran's weapons of mass destruction with Iraqi exiles, who then passed the intelligence back to Tehran, the Daily News has learned.
Sources said Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi is the suspected conduit who gave Iran's mullahs secrets that were intercepted by U.S. code-breakers - a major intelligence breach.

"We're investigating the WMD and Chalabi issues," confirmed a top government source.

Some of the U.S. defense officials who recently came under FBI scrutiny for possibly passing Iran intel to Chalabi or the Iraqi congress worked in an ad hoc unit run by Douglas Feith, the Pentagon's No. 3 official and policy chief.

But the probes of Feith's aides and others do not indicate a broad conspiracy by his Office of Special Plans, which sought links between Iraq and Al Qaeda after the Sept. 11 attacks, sources said.

Feith himself "is certainly within the sphere of concern" but he "is not under investigation," added the government source.

Sources said a parallel FBI investigation dating to early 2001 is examining whether Israel also got Iranian WMD secrets kept at the Pentagon through the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful lobbying group. Israel and AIPAC deny the charge.

U.S. officials eyed in both national security cases are not necessarily the same people, said another government source.

"The information on Iran is the same in both matters," the second source said.

The sources cautioned against tying the two sets of inquiries, even though an overlapping spy case involves Larry Franklin, the Feith aide suspected of offering AIPAC a peak at President Bush's emerging Iran policy.

"A small universe of people had access to the Iran material," said the source.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), a confidant of Pentagon neoconservatives like Feith, slammed FBI and CIA officials for leaking yesterday.

"To have people who are supposed to be in charge of security out smearing people makes one worry about the protection of individual liberty and ... individual innocence in this society," Gingrich told NBC's "Meet the Press.""

Janes: Iran gets mixed nuclear report

Iran gets mixed nuclear report

Andrew Koch JDW Bureau Chief
Washington, DC

The latest report by the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), says that many of the unresolved issues surrounding Iran's atomic programme are being clarified or resolved outright: language that appears to make US demands for the issue to be brought before the UN Security Council unworkable.

Two key issues regarding Iran's nuclear declarations remain, the report said: contamination of gas centrifuges with highly enriched uranium (HEU) and low-enriched uranium (LEU) particles; and its programme to manufacture or import P-1 and P-2 centrifuges. The report said that two other issues -Tehran's laser enrichment programme and previous experiments to convert uranium from ore to oxide, metal and other forms - were resolved to the degree that they could be treated as routine safeguards.

The question as to how centrifuge components located at Natanz, a Kalaye Electric Company workshop, Farayand Technique and Pars Trash became contaminated with both HEU and LEU particles still remains. Iran claims the contaminating substances were already on the centrifuge components when they bought them through the smuggling network headed by former Pakistani scientist A Q Khan. The IAEA report calls the Iranian account "plausible", noting that the HEU contamination at Natanz and Kalaye Electric matches that on imported components. However, several US officials said they do not believe Tehran is telling the whole truth, noting they suspect some of the contamination may have come from undeclared Iranian enrichment experiments. The latest report said the agency has made "some progress" in resolving the issue, but more information is needed before making a final determination.