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Iran Invites IAEA Chief to Discuss Nuclear Program - 2003-06-30

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, has accepted Tehran's invitation to visit Iran for talks on its nuclear program. Agency spokeswoman Melissa Fleming confirmed Monday that the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog will be traveling to Iran.

"Dr. ElBaradei has received an invitation to Iran to discuss implementation of their safeguards agreement," she said. "He intends to respond positively."

The safeguards agreement is part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Iran has signed. It obliges Tehran to open up its facilities for IAEA inspection. Ms. Fleming said no date has been set for the visit, but it is expected to take place soon.

Ten days ago the IAEA board of governors sent what Mr. ElBaradei called a loud and clear message to Iran to be completely open on its nuclear activities.

The IAEA urged Iran to sign promptly and unconditionally, an additional protocol allowing for tougher inspections of nuclear sites in the country.

The agency also wants to take environmental samplings at a non-nuclear location that could be used for enrichment activities.

The United States has told the U.N. agency that it is deeply troubled by what it thinks could be an Iranian secret nuclear weapons program.

Iran, which insists its nuclear ambitions are strictly peaceful, is pressing for an exchange in nuclear technology with the West before allowing stricter inspections.

The IAEA plans to send further teams of inspectors to Iran in the upcoming weeks, and they will issue a report on their findings in time for the next board meeting of the agency in September.