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Iran yields to UN nuclear demands
( 2003-10-22 09:27) (Agencies)

Iran agreed on Tuesday to snap inspections of its nuclear sites and to freeze uranium enrichment in what three visiting European ministers hailed as a promising start to removing doubts about Tehran's atomic aims.

But a senior Iranian official said Tehran would only halt uranium enrichment -- seen by Washington as the heart of a possible bid for nuclear arms -- for as long as it saw fit, prompting some analysts to suggest Iran was playing for time.

French Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, left, British Foreign Minister, Jack Straw, center, and their Iranian counterpart Kamal Kharrazi, talk prior to a meeting with President Mohammad Khatami, in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2003.  [AP]
British, French and German foreign ministers, who flew to Tehran with a carrot-and-stick deal aimed at convincing Iran to comply with an October 31 U.N. deadline to prove it has no atomic bomb ambitions, greeted the agreement as an important step forward rather than a breakthrough.

"It's been an important day's work but you can only judge its significance in time and through implementation," British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told reporters just before leaving the country after talks with Iranian officials.

The United States said agreement to freeze uranium enrichment could be a positive step if fully carried out.

"Full compliance will now be essential," White House spokesman Scott McClellan, who is with President Bush on an Asian tour, told reporters in Singapore.

He said Iran should cooperate fully with the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and end uranium enrichment and reprocessing.

"What is important now is not only the words by the Iranians, but the action to fully implement what their international obligations are," he said.


IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said the result of the talks was "encouraging," but said Iran had still to provide the U.N. with a full declaration of its past nuclear activities.

By offering economic and technological benefits in return for nuclear compliance, the big three European powers struck a different approach to Washington, which generally opposes offering Tehran's clerical rulers any rewards for cooperation.

Iranian Supreme National Security Council Chief Hassan Rohani (L) welcomes EU Foreign Ministers Jack Straw, Joschka Fischer (R) and Dominique de Villepin(2nd-R) at Tehran's Saadabad Palace Oct. 21, 2003.  [Reuters]
Iran's Supreme National Security Council chief Hassan Rohani said Tehran would probably sign the Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) on virtually unfettered snap inspections by a November 20 meeting of the IAEA board.

"I don't think we will sign it before October 31 but probably before November 20," Rohani said.

According to the declaration agreed in Tehran, Iran said it would implement the protocol before it had been ratified.

But Rohani was non-committal on how long Iran would maintain the freeze on uranium enrichment.

"We voluntarily chose to do it, which means it could last for one day or one year, it depends on us," he said. "As long as Iran thinks this suspension is beneficial it will continue, and whenever we don't want it we will end it."

The official Iranian news agency later quoted him as saying Iran was not prepared to abandon totally its uranium enrichment program.

Enriched uranium can be used to fuel reactors but if enriched further, can be used in warheads.

The IAEA has found arms-grade enriched uranium at two facilities in Iran this year. Iran blames the findings on contamination from parts it bought abroad on the black market.


Experts said the Tehran agreement, while a positive step, did not mean Iran was in the clear.

But German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said on his return to Berlin that the Iranian agreement might help prevent a repeat of the standoff with North Korea, so long as the pledge was fully implemented.

"It is an effort to prevent us getting into a new conflict situation analogous to the one on the Korean peninsular," he told reporters after returning from a visit to Tehran with his British and French counterparts.

"I think it's worth the effort, but at the same time our attitude is one of realism, not wishful thinking, so it comes down quite definitely to implementation," he said.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin told a news conference: "We have achieved this morning important progress and we found a basis for agreement on the three pending issues."

These were: immediate signature and early implementation of the additional protocol to the NPT; full cooperation with the IAEA and suspension of all uranium enrichment.

According to the Tehran declaration, the three European countries in turn recognized Iran's right to develop a civilian nuclear energy program and held out the prospect of "easier access to modern technology and supplies in a range of areas."

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