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International atomic energy chief praises cooperation with Iran (AFP-FRANCE PRESSE) DAVOS, Switzerland 01/29/05 8:07 AM ET)Source: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=1515&ncid=1515&e=7&u=/afp/20050129/wl_mideast_afp/forumdavosirannucleariaea_050129130729 AFP} Agence France Presse AFP} Agence France Presse Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
DAVOS, Switzerland (AFP) - International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei said that he was receiving "good cooperation" from Iran on the country´s controversial nuclear programme.

"I am saying that we are getting good cooperation from Iran," the head of the UN´s nuclear watchdog told journalists at the World Economic Forum.

IAEA nuclear inspectors said on January 18, after completing a first inspection, that they wanted to return to a military site in Iran where Washington charges that Tehran is illicitly simulating nuclear weapons testing.

"In the last 15 months we have made good strides in understanding the nature and the scope of its programme," El Baradei said.

The IAEA had no evidence that Iran was developing nuclear weapons through its atomic energy programme, he indicated.

"We cannot work on the basis of beliefs, we have to work on the facts," the UN nuclear chief said, while acknowledging that IAEA was relying largely on its own equipment, inspections, and information gathering.

But inspectors were receiving no information or evidence from outside sources, he cautioned.

"If people have information and on this basis are coming to the conclusion that this is a weapons programmme, then I would very much like them to share it."

"Right now we are not getting much, so we are relying on our own abilities," he added.

Washington suspects Iran is trying to make nuclear weapons and US President George W. Bush has said he could not rule out military action if Tehran could not be persuaded to abandon its nuclear energy program.

"As long as we have cooperation, and we do not see a smoking gun, the international community should bear with us," El Baradei insisted.

Iran suspended uranium enrichment, the key process that makes fuel for nuclear reactors but also the explosive core of atomic bombs, under a deal clinched in November by three EU states --Britain, France and Germany.

Talks between the trio and Tehran on a more comprehensive plan that would include economic ties are continuing, amid reports that the European Union had hardened its stance by urging Tehran to completely dismantle its nuclear fuel programme.

In Tehran Saturday, Iran´s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned European powers to take their nuclear negotiations with Iran seriously, otherwise Tehran will reconsider its cooperation.

"The Europeans negotiating with Iran should know that they are dealing with a great, cultured nation... if Iranian officials feel that there is no seriousness in the European negotiations, the process will change," Khamenei was quoted as saying by the Iranian media.

ElBaradei meanwhile said he hoped that the dialogue would be succesful and urged the United States to join face to face talks with Iran.

"It is vital that the United States will become part of that dialogue."

"This issue will not be resolved without face-to-face negotiations," ElBaradei added, drawing a parallel with US involvement in talks with North Korea on its nuclear ambitions.

The UN´s nuclear chief warned of deeper systemic problems with the international regime aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

"We are clearly going through a difficult time with the non- proliferation regime. We clearly have a problem on our hand," he said.

The international community´s sparring with North Korea and Iran over nuclear issues, the discovery of private nuclear trafficking, and attempts by extremist groups to seek nuclear material all indicated that the system should be overhauled and the IAEA´s powers stregthened, ELBaradei said.

The review of the international nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which is due to be engaged this year, should include a moratorium on the development of new capacity for uranium enrichment or processing.

Technological developments and the weakness of the regime meant that a determined country could build a nuclear weapon "in a matter of months or a year", he warned, leaving the IAEA little time to react. (Copyright © 2005 Agence France Presse. 01/29/05)

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