Wed, Aug 06, 2003 - Page 6 News List

IAEA works toward gaining unrestricted inspections in Iran

AP , TEHRAN

Experts from the UN nuclear watchdog began talks aimed at getting Tehran to permit unrestricted inspections of its nuclear facilities even as a published report said Iran was moving toward developing a nuclear weapons capability.

The three-member legal team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) met Monday with Iranian government lawyers, said Saber Zaeimian, spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.

The US has accused Iran of running a clandestine nuclear weapons program and wants the IAEA to declare Tehran in violation of the non-proliferation treaty. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful, electrical power purposes.

But in a report Monday, the Los Angeles Times said Iran "appears to be in the late stages of developing the capacity to build a nuclear bomb."

The Times said its three-month investigation found that Iran has been involved in a pattern of activity that has concealed weapons efforts from international inspectors.

The newspaper -- citing sources ranging from previously secret reports, international officials, independent experts and Iranian exiles -- reported that Iran made use of technology and scientists from Russia, North Korea, China and Pakistan to bring it closer to building a bomb than Iraq ever was.

Commenting on reports of Iranian nuclear efforts, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the government is "working with the IAEA" to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Iran has said it would agree to unfettered inspections if it is granted access to advanced nuclear technology as provided for under the treaty. Tehran says Washington is keeping Iran from getting that technology.

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