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Iran's Parliament to Allow Closer Scrutiny of Nuclear Program

10/25/03 Melanie Sully, VOA News, Vienna

Iran's vice-president says parliament will soon ratify and implement a legal agreement to allow tougher international scrutiny of Tehran's nuclear program.

Iranian Vice-President Masume Ebtekar said in an interview that there is a general consensus among all the political factions in the parliament to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"This is a clear indication of the sincerity of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran on this issue," she said. "It's clearly indicative of the fact that Iran is very strong on its right to pursue peaceful nuclear technologies for the benefit of the Iranian nation. The additional protocol will be signed. The date is up to the government and the parliament but it's expected to be quite soon."

The protocol will give IAEA inspectors expanded access to nuclear sites in Iran. The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency then has to decide whether Iran's nuclear program is peaceful, as Tehran claims.

Iran's readiness to sign the protocol followed a meeting earlier this week with the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany. The three countries offered Tehran the prospect of sharing modern nuclear technology.

As part of the deal, Iran also suspended its uranium enrichment program.

The United States has accused Iran of operating a secret program to develop nuclear weapons. The 35-nation board of the IAEA voted last month to give Iran until the end of October to fully disclose all details of its nuclear program. Iran delivered what it says is all of that information earlier this week.

But some western diplomats remain skeptical, and in the past U.S. officials have accused Iran of being inconsistent in the information it has provided about its nuclear program.

The Iranian vice-president, Ms. Ebtekar, said the United States has what she called an "historic misunderstanding of the Islamic revolution in Iran." The Europeans, she said, are easier to deal with.

"I think that the Europeans don't have the aggressive approach that, unfortunately, the Americans have pursued, and for that reason they've been able to negotiate and work very closely with Iran; and we've had excellent relationships with most European countries on an economic level, on a diplomatic level and at the cultural level," said Masume Ebtekar.

The IAEA board of governors meets at the end of November to decide whether Iran has answered all outstanding questions on its nuclear program. If not, the matter could go to the Security Council.

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