Mixed Signals On Nukes From Iran

This satellite image taken by Space Imaging dated Jan. 2002 reveals progress on both reactor units of the power reactor at Bushehr, Iran. Teheran television reported Thursday, Dec. 12, 2002 that Iran's Atomic Energy Council ordered a feasibility study on a second plant as the country's first nuclear power station at Bushehr prepares to go on line next year, despite U.S. concern that byproducts from Iranian plants could be used to manufacture nuclear weapons.
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Iran will increase its cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the Iranian atomic chief said Saturday, but suggested that the country will keep up controversial plans to enrich uranium.

The United States suspects Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb - a charge Iran denies. The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency urged Iran on Thursday to allow continued inspections of its suspect facilities and to desist from enriching nuclear fuel - a key step in making atomic arms.

"We will try to step up our cooperation with the IAEA. Our cooperation with the agency will be comprehensive and at a level acceptable to the agency," Iran's nuclear chief Gholamreza Aghazadeh told reporters Saturday.

Asked whether Iran would heed the IAEA's call to stop efforts to enrich uranium, Aghazadeh said Iran will go ahead with its nuclear plans.

"The IAEA has not asked us to stop plans to enrich uranium. It was the opinion of some countries, not the agency, to only delay shipment of materials to Natanz plant," he said.

In Jordan, where he was attending a meeting of business and political leaders on Mideast issues, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said he had been assured Saturday that Iran was "ready to cooperate fully."

He told Associated Press Television News he welcomed the overture from Iran and he also relayed to Iranian officials that "it would not be helpful at all if they did not have full transparency and full cooperation with the agency. The more transparency they show, the more cooperation they show, the more confidence we can create within the international community about the peaceful nature of their program."

On Friday, Aghazadeh said he would not permit environmental sampling at "some locations" because it was "contrary to agreements signed (between Iran and the IAEA)." He suggested Saturday that his position had not changed.

"We will continue any sort of cooperation with IAEA within the framework of regulations. It doesn't mean that we have adopted a new position toward IAEA," he said.

Separately, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Iran is not trying to make nuclear weapons and will agree to international scrutiny of it nuclear program. He added that no one should try to pressure Moscow to end its nuclear cooperation with Tehran.

Putin said Iranian President Mohammad Khatami assured him in a telephone call Wednesday that his country doesn't want to develop nuclear weapons and that it was prepared to sign any protocols required by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"The Iranian leadership is ready to fully meet all the IAEA demands regarding control over its nuclear program," Putin said.

Iran wants to control the whole fuel cycle, from mining uranium ore to enriching uranium at a centrifuge plant under construction in Natanz, central Iran. That site was inspected in February by ElBaradei.

"It's part of our rights (to enrich uranium) and we will continue our activities under the umbrella of the IAEA. Currently, IAEA cameras have been installed at Natanz and the materials used there have been sealed," Aghazadeh said.

He said IAEA experts inspect the plant on a monthly basis and agency cameras routinely monitor all activities.

"It's the widest and most comprehensive supervision applied to any country," he said.

Aghazadeh said the Europeans recognize "our peaceful nuclear activities" and want more transparency in Iran.

"But the U.S. position is different. Americans make some accusations against us without proving them and then try to make judgments on the basis of those accusations."

Iran denies it is seeking a nuclear bomb and says its nuclear program is designed to produce energy, particularly after its oil reserves run dry.

Iran claimed victory Thursday after the IAEA stopped short of demanding Iran accept unfettered inspections. Instead, it urged Iran to look "positively" at signing and ratifying a protocol that would enhance the agency's powers of inspection.

The IAEA statement said it expected Iran "to grant the agency all access deemed necessary by the agency" to defuse suspicions that Tehran was operating a clandestine nuclear weapons program.

The U.S. had demanded tough action to force Iran to open up its nuclear program and wanted the IAEA to declare Tehran in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Iran has said it will sign the protocol if the IAEA provides it with advanced nuclear technology as a member state and a signatory to the nuclear treaty.

"We are optimistic about signing the additional protocol ... we only want to know whether IAEA has fulfilled its obligations toward Iran after it has signed many treaties, including NPT," Aghazadeh said Saturday.

"There are some ambiguities (over the additional protocol). We will discuss those issues with IAEA. But some issues must be cleared," he said.