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Iran close to deal with EU, IAEA on its nuke program

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Monday, October 20, 2003

LONDON Iran has neared completion of a nuclear cooperation agreement with the European Union meant to resolve Teheran's dispute with the international community.

Iranian officials and European diplomatic sources said Iran has been meeting with a range of senior European representatives to discuss a deal in which Teheran would sign the so-called Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that would allow for intrusive and rapid inspections of suspected nuclear sites. In exchange, the sources said, the EU would offer Iran nuclear technology and equipment for a civilian program.

"The IAEA head Mohamed El Baradei has given us the necessary assurances that neither the text of the Additional Protocol nor its implementation will cause any worries for Iran," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza-Asefi said on Sunday.



Three EU foreign ministers are expected to soon arrive in Teheran to complete the negotiations on nuclear cooperation, Middle East Newsline reported. They are Britain's Jack Straw, France's Dominique de Villepin and Germany's Joschka Fischer. Iranian officials said the visit is expected over the next week.

The EU effort began in July as the IAEA asserted that Iran was not providing sufficient information on its nuclear program. The United States and several EU countries believe that Iran has sought to develop nuclear weapons capabilities under the guise of a civilian program supervised by the IAEA.

The sources said the EU-Iran deal is meant for completion before Oct. 31, an IAEA deadline for Teheran to provide full cooperation regarding its nuclear program. The agency has demanded that Iran sign the Additional Protocol of the NPT.

A key obstacle, the sources said, is Iran's insistence that it continue with uranium enrichment. The sources said the signing of the Additional Protocol could resolve the issue.

The official Islamic Republic News Agency said a three-member IAEA team began talks with Teheran on Saturday for Iran to sign the Additional Protocol. Iranian officials said they expect a breakthrough in diplomatic efforts over the next few days.

Ali Akhbar Salehi, Iran's envoy to the IAEA in Vienna, told the Iranian Student News Agency that he expects what he termed "new developments" to take place this week. He would not elaborate.

At the same time, President Mohammed Khatami said Iran plans to intensify negotiations to end the confrontation with the IAEA. Khatami said Iran would sign the additional NPT protocol in exchange for access to Western nuclear technology and agency approval to enrich uranium.

"We will do whatever is necessary to solve the problems and in return we're expecting our rights to be preserved, which is to have nuclear technology," Khatami said.

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