UN nuclear chief praises Iran´s cooperation, as Tehran toughens stance (AFP-FRANCE PRESSE) DAVOS, Switzerland 01/29/05 1:56 PM ET)
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DAVOS, Switzerland (AFP) - UN nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei praised
Iran´s cooperation over its controversial atomic program, even as
Tehran toughened its rhetoric over its ongoing nuclear negotiations
with European powers.
"I am saying that we are getting good cooperation from Iran," the
head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told
journalists at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.
"In the last 15 months we have made good strides in understanding the
nature and the scope of its program," ElBaradei said, indicating the
IAEA had no evidence that Iran was developing nuclear weapons through
its atomic energy program.
In Tehran, however, Iran´s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
warned European powers Britain, France and Germany to take their
ongoing nuclear negotiations seriously, threatening otherwise to
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
The IAEA has been investigating Iran for two years on US charges that
the Islamic Republic is secretly developing nuclear weapons, and US
President George W. Bush warned this month he did not rule out
military action if diplomacy fails to secure an Iranian agreement not
to seek such weapons.
Iran suspended uranium enrichment, the key process that makes fuel
for nuclear reactors but also the explosive core of atomic bombs, as
a confidence-building measure under a deal clinched in November by
the EU three.
Talks between the trio and Tehran on a more comprehensive plan that
would include economic ties are continuing, amid reports that the EU
had hardened its stance by urging Tehran to completely dismantle its
nuclear fuel program.
But Iran´s top nuclear negotiator, Hasan Rowhani, told the country´s
conservative Mehr news agency on Saturday: "Europeans know that Iran
under no circumstances will give up (uranium) enrichment for peaceful
"The European Union, especially the three countries, know that Iran
is firm on its decisions and I do not think the Europeans want the
negotiations to reach a dead end," Rowhani said.
ElBaradei meanwhile said he hoped that the dialogue would be
successful, saying it was "vital" for the United States to join the
talks with Iran.
"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.
ElBaradei also stressed that IAEA inspectors had yet to uncover any
evidence of covert weapons development in Iran.
"As long as we have cooperation, and we do not see a smoking gun, the
international community should bear with us," ElBaradei insisted.
"We cannot work on the basis of beliefs, we have to work on the
facts," the UN nuclear chief said, while emphasising that the IAEA
was currently relying largely on its own equipment, inspections, and
Its inspectors were receiving no information or evidence from outside
sources, he cautioned, adding: "If people have information and on
this basis are coming to the conclusion that this is a weapons
program, then I would very much like them to share it."
IAEA inspectors this month visited the previously off-limits Parchin
complex, a military site where Washington charges that Tehran is
illicitly simulating nuclear weapons testing.
They announced on January 18 that they wanted to return to the key
site, although a diplomat described this as standard procedure.
The UN´s nuclear chief also warned of deeper systemic problems with
the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the international regime
aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.
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
strengthened, ElBaradei said.
Technological developments 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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