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IAEA Governors Meeting To Discuss Iran's Nuclear Program

IAEA Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei
September 10, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, says it is "impossible" for Iran to suspend uranium-enrichment activities, as demanded by the permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Larijani made the statement before the start of a meeting in Vienna today of the governing board of the 35-nation International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The meeting is focusing on Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The United States and European Union are pursuing a new round of sanctions on Iran, saying that Tehran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

New IAEA Inspections

Addressing the IAEA governing board today, the agency's director-general, Muhammad el-Baradei, said Tehran must go beyond a limited UN plan for transparency in order to remove global mistrust about its nuclear aspirations.

El-Baradei called on Tehran to allow wider-ranging inspections, and to suspend uranium enrichment activities as demanded by the UN Security Council.

However, he also defended an agreement reached late last month, in which Iran agrees to a timeline to clarify the IAEA's outstanding questions, as "an important step in the right direction."

Meanwhile, officials in Tehran have been sending mixed signals ahead of the IAEA meeting.

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said that the "enemies of Iran" should know that Iran will never retreat from its right to pursue nuclear technology, including uranium enrichment.

At the same time, Ahmadinejad said Iran is in favor of dialogue with the West, Iranian media reported today.

And then there are Larijani's comments about the impossibility of suspending the country's uranium-enrichment program. Speaking on Iranian state television, Larijani said even further UN Security Council sanctions will not change Tehran's stance.

Larijani had said earlier that a recent agreement between Iran and the IAEA could be a "suitable occasion" to diplomatically settle the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.

Iran signed an agreement with the IAEA last month in which Tehran pledged new transparency in clearing up nuclear suspicions.

The agreement -- or a "work plan" -- is meant to remove all technical ambiguities surrounding Tehran's nuclear projects to ensure that they are only for peaceful purposes.

Last week, Iranian Foreign Ministry official Saeid Jalili toured European capitals to try to promote the agreement.

The signing of the "work plan" complicated pursuits by the United States and the European Union for a new UN resolution to tighten sanctions against Iran.

Washington Wants Harsher Sanctions

Officials in Washington and Brussels have criticized the IAEA's agreement with Iran, saying Tehran is trying to simply buy time before further advancing its nuclear ambitions.

The United States is seeking to convince the IAEA to impose harsher sanctions on Iran.

Earlier UN decisions have targeted Iran's arms exports, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps force, and a leading bank.

Washington unilaterally strengthened financial sanctions against Tehran, thus complicating international banks' deals with Iran.

But Russia and China, two UN Security Council members with veto power, have been more sympathetic to the Iranian stance.

Iran denied having nuclear-weapon ambitions, saying that its uranium-enrichment program is meant only for the generating power.

The IAEA's latest assessment says Iran seems to be making slower progress than expected in its uranium-enrichment process.

Copyright (c) 2007 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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