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UN Nuclear Conference Begins in Vienna


The U.N. nuclear agency's annual conference starts Monday in Vienna, with a showdown looming over bids by Syria and Iran to gain more influence, and Islamic anger about Israel's nuclear program.

The International Atomic Energy Agency's week-long conference brings together 145 member countries to draw up general policies on a range of issues, from non-proliferation to medical applications of nuclear technology.

This year, Islamic countries are expected to push strongly for action to put Israel's nuclear program under international influence. Israel is widely believed to be the only country in the Middle East to possess nuclear arms, but it refuses to open its nuclear program to international inspectors.

Another key issue is likely to be the consideration of Iran and Syria for a possible seat on the IAEA board, against the objection of Western states.

Iran has blocked a U.N. investigation into its nuclear program, while denying it is pursuing nuclear weapons.

Tehran today repeated its refusal to stop enriching uranium, as demanded by U.N. resolutions.

The IAEA sent inspectors to Syria earlier this year to investigate a site bombed by Israel a year ago. Israel said the remote desert site was an undisclosed nuclear facility.

Syria has denied building a reactor or hiding any nuclear activity.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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