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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Iran to Boost Cooperation with IAEA

Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency will enhance cooperation to the highest level in line with the Safeguards Agreement Iran's Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO) Deputy Director Mohammad Saeedi said on Friday.

Saeedi rejected rumors that Iran has reduced cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog, saying Tehran's cooperation with the UN body is "continuing based on a mutual understanding".

"Iran's cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency will continue at the highest level in line with the Safeguards Agreement," Saeedi told MNA.

Associated Press on Thursday reported that IAEO head Gholam Reza Aqazadeh in a meeting with IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei on Thursday has signaled that Iran will no longer cooperate with UN experts probing the alleged weaponization studies.

Aqazadeh and ElBaradei started talks behind closed doors in Vienna on Thursday, where the two sides discussed Iran's nuclear program and the outcome of Tehran's latest talks with the Group 5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) over its nuclear standoff with the West.

"Speculations that have been published over the past two days about the meeting between Mr. Aqazadeh and Mr. ElBaradei are baseless and are based on unilateral analyses," Saeedi asserted.

The IAEA in May presented its latest report on Iran's nuclear activities to the UN Security Council, saying the Islamic Republic should respond to allegations that it is conducting weaponization studies.

At a closed door meeting with diplomats in Vienna, IAEA chief for inspections Olli Heinonen claimed that the agency had gathered intelligence from around 10 countries, suggesting Iran was engaged in weaponization studies in the past.

"In Iran's view the issue of the alleged weaponization studies has been concluded and Iran has fulfilled its commitments in this regard," Saeedi stated.

He said the Thursday meeting between Iranian and IAEA diplomats took place upon ElBaradei's invitation.

"The meeting was aimed at consulting the agency's director general because he has a key role in nuclear negotiations between Iran and the 5+1 group. The two sides agreed to continue talks alongside the ongoing political negotiations," Saeedi stated.

"Iran's relations with the IAEA are continuing based on a mutual understanding," he added.

He said the IAEA is currently conducting routine inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities under the safeguards agreement.

Asked whether ElBaradei has made any special suggestion, Saeedi said that the IAEA director general did not make any "special requests".

"What is important for the director general is that the negotiations between Iran and the 5+1 group start as soon as possible and continue until it yields the desired results."

Elsewhere, Saeedi told IRNA that the Islamic Republic will undoubtedly continue with high level cooperation with the UN agency.

Everything will go on within the framework of the Safeguards Agreement and on the basis of mutual agreement, he noted.

On visit to Vienna of head of IAEO, Reza Aqazadeh, he said the visit had been postponed previously.

The inspections are carried out on the basis of the Safeguards Agreement, he added.

Last week, Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili held talks in Geneva with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana over ending Iran's long-running nuclear standoff with the West.

US senior diplomat William Burns attended the talks which marked the first high-ranking meeting between the two countries in 30 years.

Also present were representatives from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany.

Russia, China, the United States, Britain, France, and Germany last month offered Iran an updated package of incentives in return for a halt to Tehran's uranium enrichment activities.

The package, which is a follow-up of an original proposal in 2006, offers nuclear cooperation and wider trade in aircraft, energy, high technology, and agriculture.

The Islamic Republic has also presented its own package of proposals on addressing international challenges, including the threat of nuclear proliferation and has said it has found common ground between the two separate packages.

Iran has repeatedly ruled out suspending uranium enrichment as a precondition for talks with the major powers and has said it will hold talks "only on common points".

After the meeting, the some countries within the sextet said Iran had two weeks to reply to the offer to rein in its nuclear work in return for a halt to new steps towards more UN sanctions.

Washington and its Western allies accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, while they have never presented any corroborative document to substantiate their allegations. Iran denies the charges and insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Tehran stresses that the country has always pursued a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry.

Despite the rules enshrined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) entitling every member state, including Iran, to the right of uranium enrichment, Tehran is now under three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions for turning down West's illegitimate calls to give up its right of uranium enrichment.

Tehran has dismisses West's demands as politically tainted and illogical, stressing that sanctions and pressures merely consolidate Iranians' national resolve to continue the path.

Iran has also insisted that it would continue enriching uranium because it needs to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it is building in the southwestern town of Darkhoveyn as well as its first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr.

The Islamic Republic says that it considers its nuclear case closed as it has come clean of IAEA's questions and suspicions about its past nuclear activities.

Yet, the United States has remained at loggerheads with Iran over the independent and home-grown nature of Tehran's nuclear technology, which gives the Islamic Republic the potential to turn into a world power and a role model for other third-world countries. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.

Washington's push for additional UN penalties contradicts the report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran's programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and similar reports by the IAEA head - one in November and the other one in February - which praised Iran's truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities and announced settlement of outstanding issues with Tehran, any effort to impose further sanctions on Iran seems to be completely irrational.

The February report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised Iran's cooperation in clearing up all of the past questions over its nuclear program, vindicating Iran's nuclear program and leaving no justification for any new UN sanctions.

Observers believe that the shift of policy by the White House to send William Burns - the third highest-ranking diplomat in the US - to the talks with Iran happened after Bush's attempt to rally international pressure against Iran lost steam due to the growing international vigilance.

US President George W. Bush finished a tour of the Middle East in winter to gain the consensus of his Arab allies to unite against Iran.

But hosting officials of the regional nations dismissed Bush's allegations, describing Tehran as a good friend of their countries.

Many world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure against Iran unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports, stressing that Tehran's case should be normalized and returned to the UN nuclear watchdog due to the Islamic Republic's increased cooperation with the agency.

(Source: FARS News Agency)

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