AFP: UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei on Friday pressed Iran to intensify its cooperation with his agency to shed more light on the history of the disputed Iranian atomic programme. TEHRAN (AFP) UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei on Friday pressed Iran to intensify its cooperation with his agency to shed more light on the history of the disputed Iranian atomic programme.
On his first visit to Iran for over one-and-a-half years, ElBaradei said he expected “accelerated cooperation” to resolve all questions over the nuclear drive, which the West fears could be used to make an atomic bomb.
“We had a friendly and frank exchange of views about enhanced cooperation between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and how to clarify the outstanding issues,” ElBaradei said after talks with the head of Iran’s atomic energy organisation, Gholam Reza Aghazadeh.
“I discussed with Mr Aghazadeh how we can work together and accelerate the pace of our cooperation to clarify all outstanding issues before my report (to the IAEA board of governors) in March,” ElBaradei said.
“I’m looking forward to an environment of accelerated cooperation.”
ElBaradei is due to meet other top Iranian officials, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on the second day of his visit on Saturday.
Aghazadeh, who described the talks as “very good”, pledged that Iran would press on with its cooperation with the agency.
“We will continue our cooperation in all areas to solve all the problems. We are entering into a new phase and I think that the climate is right to solve all the problems.
“I advise the Westerners to profit from this climate,” he told reporters at a joint news conference.
Despite a four-year probe into Tehran’s atomic drive, the IAEA has never been able to confirm whether the programme is peaceful. The aim of its cooperation with Tehran is to finally draw this investigation to a conclusion.
The United States is maintaining pressure for a third set of UN Security Council sanctions to punish Iran’s nuclear defiance, but Tehran is hoping its cooperation with the agency will stave off further punitive measures.
As part of a cooperation deal agreed in August, Iran and the IAEA have already held talks over three areas of past doubts — uranium particle contamination, Iran’s past experiments with plutonium and its use of uranium-enriching P1 and P2 centrifuges.
Vienna-based diplomats said talks would now turn to the possible military use of Iran’s nuclear technology, the last and possibly most significant item on the list.
“We hope that ElBaradei, after seeing the reality, will make a positive and realistic report and close our case completely at the agency,” top cleric Ahmad Khatami told worshippers at Friday prayers in Tehran.
A US intelligence report appears to have momentarily taken the heat out of the atomic crisis but Washington still wants the UN Security Council to adopt a third set of sanctions against Tehran.
The report said Iran halted a nuclear weapons programme in 2003, undermining repeated accusations from US President George W. Bush that Tehran was actively seeking the atomic bomb.
The Security Council has repeatedly called on Iran to freeze the sensitive process of uranium enrichment — which can be used both to make atomic fuel and a bomb.
But Iran says it has every right to the full nuclear fuel cycle and insists its programme is solely aimed at generating electricity for a population whose fossil fuels will eventually run out.
ElBaradei last visited Iran in April 2006, where he notably failed to win any concession from Tehran over the question of enrichment. His meeting with Khamenei will be his first ever encounter with Iran’s undisputed number one.
His trip to Iran coincided with a major visit to Israel and US Arab allies by President George W. Bush, who this week declared his belief that “Iran is a threat to world peace”.
Even after the release of the intelligence report, the enmity between the two foes was made clear when Washington accused Tehran of harassing its ships in the Straits of Hormuz last week.