Iran Nuclear NewsU.N. nuclear official urges Iran to clarify ‘outstanding issues’

U.N. nuclear official urges Iran to clarify ‘outstanding issues’

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New York Times: Mohamed ElBaradei, the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, on Friday urged Iran to move more quickly to clarify questions about its nuclear activities, the Iranian news agency ISNA reported. The New York Times

By NAZILA FATHI
Published: January 12, 2008

TEHRAN — Mohamed ElBaradei, the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, on Friday urged Iran to move more quickly to clarify questions about its nuclear activities, the Iranian news agency ISNA reported.

“I discussed with Iran how we can work together to accelerate the pace of our cooperation to clarify all outstanding issues before my report in March,” ISNA quoted Dr. ElBaradei as saying.

Dr. ElBaradei, accompanied by the atomic agency’s deputy director general, Olli Heinonen, referred to his two-hour talks with Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the chief of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, as “frank and friendly.” But he said that Iran needed to make its nuclear activities more transparent.

“I asked Mr. Aghazadeh to give us maximum assurances about all present nuclear activities,” Dr. ElBaradei was quoted as saying.

This is Dr. ElBaradei’s first visit to Iran since 2006. He has played a crucial role in mediating between Iran and the West regarding Iran’s nuclear activities. His trip comes after a United States National Intelligence Estimate released in early December said that Iran had suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

Mr. Aghazadeh said that Dr. ElBaradei was expected to meet Saturday with Iran’s supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final word on all state matters. Dr. ElBaradei also plans to meet with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Saturday.

Under the terms of a “work plan” concluded last summer, Iran was to have met a series of deadlines to resolve all unanswered questions about suspicious nuclear activities over the past two decades.

Tehran has been the subject of two sets of United Nations Security Council sanctions for refusing to suspend its uranium enrichment activities. Enriched uranium can be used as nuclear fuel and, if it is enriched to higher levels, for making bombs.

Iran has rejected accusations by some Western countries that it has a clandestine weapons program, and says its program is peaceful. It currently has 3,000 operating centrifuges — the machines that enrich uranium — but it says it wants to increase the program to 54,000 centrifuges.

Ayatollah Khamenei linked the country’s nuclear program to national pride during one of his speeches last week in the central city of Yazd. He said that he was responsible for resuming the country’s enrichment program in 2005 after a two-year suspension.

“The enemies wanted to take advantage of our temporary and volunteer suspension to undermine our nuclear program,” he was quoted as saying by ISNA. “I insisted that I would step in if they continued with their demands, and I did, and so our progress began.”

Ayatollah Khamenei said that the country wanted to be independent in producing its fuel. “What if the country that is giving us fuel now refuses one day to give it to us and sets conditions?” he asked. He was referring to Russia, which is providing fuel for Iran’s first nuclear plant, in the southern city of Bushehr.

“Don’t we have to surrender then?” he said, according to ISNA.

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