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By Safa Haeri
Posted Saturday, March 27, 2004

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"We have adopted a policy of full transparency, and we have declared all of our nuclear activities to the IAEA", Mr. Pirooz Hoseyni, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, said.



TEHRAN, 27 Mar. (IPS, with Ali Akbar Dareini of The Associated Press) As international nuclear inspectors arrived in Tehran for inspecting Iran’s atomic facilities, Iran inaugurated a plant for processing uranium ore into gas, a step prior to enrichment of uranium, in the central city of Isfahan, Iranian nuclear officials said Saturday.

The Uranium Conversion Facility began operation "some time ago", a senior official at the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The nuclear facility in Isfahan, 450 kilometres south of Tehran, converts uranium ore into gas, which is destined for enrichment at a nuclear plant in Natanz. The new facilities were inaugurated as the Los Angeles Times quoted Saturday unidentified Western diplomats reporting that Iran is hiding key parts of its nuclear program.

According to the diplomat, Iran has set up a "cover up committee" last year making a thorough and systematic examination of all uranium conversion facilities, centrifuge component manufacturing plants and other secret installations to locate poor concealment. It will then order improved concealment measures with a view to making them hermetic before inspections resume".

The unidentified diplomats said the Iranian committee's most pressing tasks include trying to hide nuclear evidence at nearly 300 locations across the country, LAT added, referring probably to the discovery, by inspectors from the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of advanced centrifuges sold to Iran by Abdol Qadir Khan, the "father" of Pakistan’s atomic bomb.

But Mr. Pirooz Hoseyni, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA rejected the information, telling the newspaper that charges of a cover-up are "totally baseless".

"We have adopted a policy of full transparency, and we have declared all of our nuclear activities to the IAEA", he said.

At the end of its last meeting, the IAEA’s Board of Directors condemned Iran for continuing to hide sensitive nuclear activities and warned the Islamic Republic to make public all its nuclear projects, above all enriching uranium programs and facilities.

In reaction to the Resolution that Tehran described as "insulting and humiliating", Iran first said it would not allow inspectors to carry out their scheduled mission, but changed its decision, explaining that the delay was due to the New Year’s long holidays.

Washington wanted a though warning to Iran, including a threat to transfer Iran’s case to the United Nations Security Council for harsh economic sanctions, but it softened its attitude under pressures from the European Union and the group of 18 Non Aligned Movement nations of fear to have Iran cutting all its cooperation with the international community, emulating renegade North Korea.

The UN team will focus its inspections on the Natanz uranium enrichment plant and the Isfahan nuclear technology centre, sources at the United Nations told reporters, adding that the inspection visit was "routine, nothing spectacular".

He said the IAEA would not - on this trip - be verifying Iran's pledge to suspend uranium enrichment.

The suspension, obtained from Iran by foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany at the end of a visit to Tehran last October was at the centre of a controversy between Tehran and the IAEA, with Iran accusing the international nuclear watchdog of not keeping its side of the Tehran Agreement promising transfer to Iran of advanced nuclear technologies for civilian purposes.

At the same time, Iran had also signed the Additional Protocol to Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), allowing IAEA inspectors unrestricted access to all its nuclear facilities.

IAEA director general Mohamad ElBarade’i, expected to visit Iran early next month, has said that move is crucial if Iran is to convince the world it is cooperating fully with the UN watchdog and honouring its nuclear non-proliferation commitments.

Mr ElBarade’i has also said another UN team may go to Iran in April for a more aggressive inspection.

The United States strongly suspects Iran has a secret atomic weapons program. If the cover-up is confirmed, it would bolster the U.S. assertion that Iran is trying to hide a secret nuclear weapons program.

Iran has repeatedly denied concealing any illegal nuclear activity, insisting that it has no nuclear-based military program and that all its atomic projects are for civilian aims, mostly producing electricity.

But at the same time, it has also warned the IAEA that it would not allow inspectors going to its military installations, where Iranian and Western experts believe that the country’s efforts for building an atomic weapons are concentrated. ENDS IRAN IAEA NUCLEAR 27304



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