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Iran says will sign NPT protocol on Thursday

President of Iran`s Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO) Gholam-Reza Aqazadeh said in Tehran on Wednesday that Iran will sing the Additional Protocol of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) tomorrow (Thursday December 18), IRNA reported.

Aqazadeh, talking to reporters after a cabinet meeting, said Iran will sign the protocol -- that allows snap inspections of its nuclear sites -- at the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.

The announcement of the IAEO chief follows earlier remarks by Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi on Saturday that Iran will sign the protocol "in few days" and those by Government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh on Monday that the Foreign Ministry has been authorized to go ahead with the preliminary signing of the protocol.

Iran, as an NPT member, has always stressed that its nuclear energy program is peaceful, and has strongly rejected US black propaganda that the Islamic Republic is pursuing weapons of mass destruction.

The IAEA has been pressuring Iran to sign the NPT Additional Protocol, arguing that Tehran needs to sign the protocol to receive the expertise to which the Islamic Republic is entitled to for pushing forward its nuclear energy program.

The IAEA Board of Governors in September set an October 31 deadline for Iran to prove it is pursuing peaceful nuclear programs. The resolution that was submitted by Canada, Japan and Australia also calls on Tehran to clarify its nuclear program by the end of October and to suspend its uranium enrichment program.

Iran told the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Britain on October 21 that it would soon announce readiness to sign the NPT Additional Protocol, and would suspend its uranium enrichment activities.

The announcement was immediately supported by the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei who described it as a prudent and an appropriate measure "to thwart the plots of the US and the Zionists".

Ayatollah Khamenei, however, stressed that Iran would stop cooperation with the relevant organizations if they demand too much. Iran`s permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Ali Akbar Salehi, on October 23 -- eight days before the IAEA resolution`s deadline was due -- submitted the final documents on Iran`s nuclear activities to IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei at his office in Vienna, as scheduled earlier.

ElBaradei accordingly said the report "looks comprehensive" and said it will be examined and the final assessment will be passed on by the IAEA Board of Governors on November 20.

This was followed by reports that Salehi had also handed a letter to ElBaradei according to which Iran had voiced readiness to sign the NPT Additional Protocol and suspend its uranium enrichment activities as of November 11.

The IAEA Board in a resolution on November 26 welcomed Iran`s "active cooperation and openness" with the agency over its nuclear energy program thus frustrating US efforts to forward Iran`s nuclear case to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

The resolution had been initiated by Britain, France and Germany that opposed Washington`s proposal to refer Iran`s nuclear program case to the Security Council stressing that Tehran must be instead rewarded for its openness and cooperation.

Iran accordingly hailed the resolution as an achievement with Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi stressing that the resolution "proved that Iran has followed its peaceful nuclear activities with transparency and truthfulness".

... Payvand News - 12/17/03 ... --

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