Iran says IAEA inspections will be limited
( 2003-09-29 21:49) (Agencies)
Angered by a resolution calling for Tehran to halt uranium enrichment activities, Iranian officials said on Monday UN inspectors would have only limited access to nuclear sites when they arrive this week.
But while hardliners continued to argue Tehran should halt all cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), reformist government officials said they may allow tougher inspections in future.
The IAEA has said it hopes the inspectors' visit, from Thursday, will enable it to verify Iran's stance that it has no intention of developing nuclear arms and merely hopes to use nuclear technology to produce electricity.
The IAEA has given Tehran until October 31 to dispel doubts about its nuclear ambitions, which Washington says include making weapons.
But Iran, outraged by a tough IAEA resolution passed this month which also called on it to halt all uranium enrichment activities, said it will scale back its cooperation with UN inspectors for the time being.
"The (inspection) visits will be within the existing framework of the agency, which is the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)," Saber Zaimian, spokesman of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, told Reuters by telephone.
Under the NPT, inspectors are only allowed access to certain declared nuclear facilities. A wide range of countries, including Russia and Japan, have urged Iran to sign an Additional Protocol of the NPT to allow thorough, snap checks.
Government spokesman Abdollah Ramazanzadeh said a return to greater cooperation with the IAEA would depend on the results of talks with the agency.
"Until now we have cooperated above our commitments with the agency and the continuation of our cooperation depends on our negotiations with the agency," he told a news conference.
HARDLINER" Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, in an interview with US television, said Iran was prepared to sign the Additional Protocol provided it was given assurances it could then continue with its nuclear programme, including uranium enrichment.
But hardliners in Iran, who control the main levers of power in the country, continue to argue that Iran should not cave in to international pressure and instead follow North Korea's example by pulling out of the NPT.
"It is naive to think that after accepting the protocol (on snap inspections) America, the European Union and America's allies will stop accusing Iran," Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of the hardline Kayhan newspaper, told the students news agency.
Diplomats in Tehran say the wide discrepancy between comments from hardliners and government officials indicates that fierce debate is still raging within Iran's ruling establishment on how to respond to the international pressure.
Officials have acknowledged that the IAEA found traces of arms-grade uranium at two sites in Iran. But Tehran says the finds were to due contamination from parts it had imported.
Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, told state television on Monday Iran would have needed large numbers of centrifuges operating for a long period of time to produce the level of uranium enrichment found.
"Both the IAEA and we know that such a thing does not exist (in Iran)," he said.
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