Sat, Apr 22, 2006 - Page 7 News List

IAEA's deputy director general postpones Iran trip

AFP , VIENNA

A senior UN nuclear inspector put off a trip to Iran late on Thursday in what diplomats said was a clear sign that Tehran is failing to give the UN atomic agency key concessions it demands.

The development comes as the UN Security Council waits to see if Iran honors a Friday deadline for it to halt uranium enrichment that could be weapons-related and to cooperate fully with inspectors from the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

US President George W. Bush on Thursday pressed Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) to support tough action against Iran's nuclear program, including a possible Security Council resolution that could allow for action ranging from economic sanctions to military strikes.

The IAEA's director of safeguards, Olli Heinonen, has decided not to travel to Iran after being on standby for a trip following a visit to Tehran last week by the agency's director general Mohamed ElBaradei, to seek a breakthrough in the Iranian nuclear crisis, a diplomat close to the IAEA said.

Heinonen, who is an IAEA deputy director general, has not set a new date for his trip, the diplomat said.

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An Iranian delegation was in Vienna this week negotiating with the IAEA on the agency's demands for Iran to suspend enrichment and to cooperate fully with an over three-year-old IAEA investigation of Tehran's nuclear program, which the US charges hides secret atomic arms development, diplomats said.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said earlier this month that the Islamic state had successfully enriched a small amount of uranium for use as fuel for a nuclear power station.

Enrichment is a sensitive process as it can make either nuclear reactor fuel or atom bomb material, but Iran insists its program is a peaceful effort to generate electricity.

A second diplomat said that whether Heinonen went "depended on whether the Iranians currently in Vienna give the IAEA anything new."

The diplomat, and others, said ElBaradei had failed to win concessions from Iran on his trip there.

The Iranians rejected ElBaradei's "urging [for them] to re-suspend [uranium enrichment] at Natanz [the Iranian enrichment facility] and they offered vague cooperation on the outstanding safeguards issues but gave him nothing concrete," the diplomat said.

The diplomat said ElBaradei had even "urged them to give him enough cooperation so he could credit them for it in his upcoming report" and slow things down at the Security Council.

"But since his return to Vienna, the IAEA has seen nothing new from Iran," the diplomat said.

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The IAEA seeks documents on dealings Iran had with a nuclear black market network run by disgraced Pakistani Abdul Qadeer Kahn, the father of his country's atomic bomb.

The agency also wants to interview military officers who may have overseen secret work that could be nuclear-weapons related and to get more information on work Iran may have done on sophisticated P2 centrifuges, which can enrich uranium more quickly and abundantly, as well as documents it has on making uranium hemispheres that form the core of atom bombs.

The IAEA currently has an inspection team at Natanz but the stakes are high as ElBaradei is to submit a report next week to the Security Council on Iranian compliance.

Washington is pushing for moves that could lead to economic and other sanctions if Iran fails to comply but key Iranian allies and trading partners Russia and China are resisting such measures.

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