Fri, Oct 17, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Iran running out of time to prove case: ElBaradei


UN atomic agency inspectors will visit any site considered necessary to check Iran's claims that it doesn't want to make nuclear weapons, the agency chief said yesterday after arriving in Tehran for key talks.

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei traveled to Iran to warn that an Oct. 31 deadline leaves the government little time to prove its claims.

Two weeks ahead of the ultimatum -- and the subsequent threat of possible UN Security Council sanctions -- there are "still outstanding issues to be resolved" before suspicions are dispelled, ElBaradei said after landing.

ElBaradei said it wasn't too late for Iran to assist UN nuclear inspectors. He would not give details of ongoing inspections, but suggested reviews of both military and civilian facilities.

"If it's civilian or military sites doesn't matter much," he said. "We visit sites that are relevant to our work. If it's important to us to visit a site, we will do so."

The US and its allies accuse Iran of working on a secret nuclear weapons program, while Tehran says it is only interested in generating electricity.

Earlier, while flying to Frankfurt, Germany, from Vienna, Austria, for a connecting flight to Tehran, ElBaradei said that despite the outstanding questions, Tehran had increased cooperation with agency officials in recent weeks, permitting inspectors visits to all sites they requested, including a military one.

Officials close to the agency, speaking on condition of anonymity, identified that site as Kolahdouz, not far from the Iranian capital.

The site was identified in the summer by the National Council of Resistance of Iran as the alleged location of efforts to enrich uranium, possibly for use in weapons.

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