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By Safa Haeri
Posted Tuesday, April 6, 2004

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TEHRAN, 6 Apr. (IPS) Iran announced on Monday that it will stop building and assembling centrifuges for uranium enrichment this week, but at the same time expressed dissatisfaction with the attitude adopted by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the European countries "big 3".

Mr. Qolamreza Aqazadeh, the Head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization made the announcement, after first round of talks with Dr. Mohammad ElBradeh’i, the Director General of the Vienna-based international nuclear watchdog, who had arrived earlier on the day in Tehran amidst sharp-tongued articles in newspapers against both the Agency and himself, accused of working on behalf of the Americans.

To journalists, Aqazadeh said the country would "suspend" all its centrifuge work, production and assembling as from 9 April on a "voluntary" basis, but said he was not pleased with the attitude of the IAEA’s Board of Directors in the one hand, Britain, France and Germany on the other concerning the Iranian nuclear issue.

"Iran is interested as quickly as possible to bring this case to a close" said Mr. ElBarade’i


Though he was referring to the Agreement that had been reached in Tehran last October between the foreign affairs ministers of the above-mentioned nations, but he did not explain why Tehran had not suspended enriching uranium as from November, as agreed with Hojjatoleslam Hasan Rohani, the Secretary of the Supreme Council for National Security, acting as Iran’s main negotiator with the IAEA on nuclear issues.

However, he expressed hopes to see Iran-IAEA relations be "normalised" and confirmed that for its part, Tehran would do all its possible to improve the situation.

Mr. ElBarade’i immediately welcomed the announcement and said a new team of inspectors would come to Tehran on 12 April to verify that all uranium enrichment activities had stopped.

"Iran is interested as quickly as possible to bring this case to a close", he said, putting the date of June, when the Directors meet again to review the progress made on Iran issue.

"Since the IAEA's Board of Directors wishes to hear a comprehensive report on Iran's nuclear projects in June, I wish to clarify the great significance of the issue for the Iranian officials in this visit", ElBradeh’i said.

"We agreed that we need to accelerate the process of cooperation", ElBarade’i said. "Mr. Aghazadeh committed that Iran will do everything possible to accelerate the process of resolving the outstanding issues. I hope during the course of my visit that we can develop an action plan that can have a timeline."


"At the end of the day, the issue is to really create confidence that this is a program for peaceful purpose" ElBaradei added


Nevertheless, ElBarade’i said he would address two key points with top Iranian officials: the origins of traces of highly enriched uranium found in the country, and details on Iran's advanced P-2 centrifuges — equipment that could be used to enrich uranium for use in a weapon.

"His trip to Iran was meant to address such indications of continued nuclear cover-ups and signs that even previously reluctant U.S. allies were moving closer to the United States' view that Tehran should be penalised", commentators said about the visit, as some Iranian newspapers suggested that the Egyptian boss of the IAEA was carrying a message for the Iranian authorities from the Bush Administration.

"At the end of the day, the issue is to really create confidence that this is a program for peaceful purpose," ElBaradei said Monday, calling on Tehran to "turn over a new leaf".

Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and geared only toward producing electricity, but the United States, Israel and even the European Union’s "Big-3" are not convinced, responding that the ayatollahs are using the technology for building up a nuclear military arsenal.

Diplomats from an unnamed country revealed last month in Istanbul that Iran had moved nuclear enrichment programs to less detectable locations.

ElBarade’i, who is to return to Vienna on Wednesday, said last month that Iran has much to do before the IAEA can declare Tehran's nuclear program peaceful.

In response to a reporter's question on his recent trip to Washington, and whether he carries any message from the US president for Iran, ElBarade’i said,

"Although I carry no message from President Bush for Iran, I personally wish the Iranians and the US officials would get engaged in direct talks soon".

Mr. Abbas Salimi Namin, a former editor of the hard line "Keyhan Hava’i" (or Keyhan by Air, a weekly review of the daily Keyhan in English for Iranians abroad) who is close to Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, the leader of the Islamic Republic, said because Americans have documents about ElBrade’i having received hefty bribes from Saddam Hoseyn, the toppled Iraqi dictator, therefore he acts as an American puppets, making Iran’s position very difficult.

Other Iranian newspapers also said that the IAEA director, who is coming to Tehran from Washington where he had met President George W. Bush, is carrying a message for the Iranian leaders.

But Aqazadeh assured that he had received no message.

ElBradeh’i is scheduled to confer with Iran's President Mohammad Khatami and Hasan Rohani on remaining issues to be clarified on Iran's nuclear activities.

This is the third visit of the IAEA chief since the UN nuclear watchdog started its new round of surveys on Iran's nuclear activities in February 2003. ENDS IAEA IRAN NUCLEAR


Mohamed ElBaradei (L), head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and Iran's nuclear chief Gholamreza Aghazadeh hold a news conference in Tehran April 6, 2004. ElBaradei said Iran had agreed to accelerate cooperation with the IAEA. Photo by Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters


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