Sat, Nov 01, 2003 - Page 6 News List

IAEA satisfied with Iran's report on nuclear program

REUTERS , OTTAWA

Iran's declaration to the International Atomic Energy Agency about its controversial nuclear program looks to be comprehensive, the head of the UN agency said on Thursday.

The IAEA's governing board had set an Oct. 31 deadline for Iran to come clean about the program, which Washington alleges is a front for building an atomic bomb. Iran gave the IAEA a declaration on Oct. 23 about the program, which Tehran insists is peaceful.

"I think we are making good progress. Iran has submitted what [it] assured me to be a comprehensive and accurate declaration," IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei told reporters in Ottawa.

"I think I could say that at first glance the report is comprehensive but we still have to do a lot of fine-tuning, we we still have to do a lot of questioning, and that is why we are there right now and we will continue to be there doing an inspection for quite a few months in fact."

Iran is allowing UN inspectors to examine thousands of imported uranium enrichment machinery parts to determine the origin of the traces of weapons-grade uranium found earlier this year, a senior Iranian official said on Tuesday.

ElBaradei did not say whether the declaration answered all the IAEA's questions. Diplomats said UN officials had yet to verify if the answers were true and complete.

Last week, Iran agreed to freeze uranium enrichment and to sign the Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, allowing snap inspections of its nuclear sites.

"I will expect that, next week, they will send me a letter requesting they will conclude an additional protocol, which also would be a very positive development," ElBaradei said after talks with Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham.

A spokeswoman for the Vienna-based IAEA said the declaration contained "a great deal of information addressing key areas of Iran's past nuclear program which IAEA inspectors had raised questions about."

"Whether it provides all the answers has yet to be verified," said Melissa Fleming.

A Vienna-based Western diplomat closely following the IAEA inspections in Iran said he expected Tehran had complied with the agency's demand for information to the extent that it "at least gave some kind of answer" to all the questions raised.

"There has been some co-operation by Iran," he said.

These questions included a full picture of Tehran's uranium enrichment program, nuclear import and export lists and other information.

But the Western diplomat said if Iran's declaration did not address the question of what the relationship is between Iran's military and what Tehran says is a peaceful nuclear program, this would be a "glaring omission."

The IAEA has been keen to have details about the origin of uranium-enrichment centrifuge parts, which Iran says it bought on the black market and blames for contaminating two Iranian sites where the IAEA found traces of bomb-grade uranium.

Iran's ambassador to the IAEA indicated this information was not in the declaration, as these parts were purchased on the black market in the 1980s through "intermediaries" who were no longer traceable.

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