IAEA cuts short inspections of Iran's nukes

Monday, February 24, 2003

NICOSIA The International Atomic Energy Agency, occupied with Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, has decided to reduce the scope of its inspections in Iran.

Over the weekend, IAEA director Mohammed El Baradei cut short his long-awaited inspection of unreported Iranian nuclear sites.

El Baradei also failed to tour Iran's nuclear reactor facility under construction in Bushehr. The United States has accused Iran of using Bushehr as a cover for the production of nuclear weapons, Middle East Newsline reported.

El Baradei toured a nuclear facility at Natanz on Friday, but left before a scheduled inspection of Arak and Bushehr.

Instead, two of El Baradei's aides stayed in Teheran for the inspection of Arak, located in central Iran. IAEA aides said El Baradei's heavy workload regarding Iraq prevented him from fulfilling his original schedule.

IAEA aides said El Baradei visit was regarded as incomplete. They said he did not obtain Iran's approval for a more rigorous inspection regime of nuclear plants. This included the prospect of snap inspections of suspected Iranian nuclear facilities.

At a news conference on Saturday, El Baradei acknowledged that Iran has refused the additional IAEA protocol. The protocol has been signed by all European Union member countries.

"This is not just about Iran, but for all countries," El Baradei said. "As soon as the countries sign a NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] as well as the protocol, we can provide comprehensive assurance for those countries who have signed both protocols, but without the additional protocol, the assurance is less strong."

The chairman of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization told the news conference that Teheran has pledged to inform the IAEA of any decision to build additional nuclear power facilities. Teheran failed to inform the IAEA of the Arak and Natanz facilities.

"We assured Mr. El Baradei that all out activities are under IAEA control and we have left the door open for further discussions," Iranian atomic energy chief Gholamreza Aghazadeh said.

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