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IAEA Board Set to Debate Iran's Nuclear Program, Other Issues


The International Atomic Energy Agency's Board of Governors starts a closed session Monday to review Iran's nuclear program. The discussions are expected to last all week and also to extend to North Korea's program, as well as other items relating to nuclear proliferation and security.

The head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, is expected to inform the board that Iran has kept to its agreement to halt its enrichment program. The conclusion is based on a report from international inspectors, who visited a uranium enrichment plant at Natanz in central Iran last week.

Iran suspended sensitive parts of its nuclear program last November, as part of a deal with Britain, France and Germany. The three European nations have offered Iran incentives, if Tehran gives up its enrichment facilities. Iran has promised to look at a detailed package deal the Europeans are working on when it is ready, probably at the end of July.

Iran claims its nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes, but the United States and others believe the fact it was kept secret for so long, combined with inconsistencies in Iran's own declarations, point to a weapons program.

Mr. ElBaradei has often come in for criticism from Washington for being too soft on Iran, and Washington was initially opposed to his reappointment as head of the agency. But this week, the U.S. State Department said it was prepared to support him for a third term.

IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming says the Egyptian diplomat looks set to continue in the job.

"It's very likely that the item on the appointment of the director general will be moved to the first item, so that will be taken up on Monday morning, and then we will hear a statement by the director general," she said. "His usual general statement that will comment on different aspects of the IAEA's work."

Other items on the agenda of this week's meeting will be trying to unravel the global black market in nuclear technology, once headed by top Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan.

The IAEA is also concerned by North Korea's declarations that it has nuclear weapons. The agency wants international inspectors back in the communist country. IAEA Inspectors were forced to leave North Korea at the end of 2002.

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