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Iranian Foreign Minister Expresses Willingness to Cooperate with IAEA - 2003-08-28

Japanese officials say visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi has expressed Iran's desire to broaden its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency on inspections of its nuclear facilities. Iranian authorities held extensive discussions last month with representatives from the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding the additional protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Iran is deciding whether to sign the additional protocol, which would allow for more intrusive and unannounced inspections of its nuclear program.

International pressure is mounting for Iran to make its nuclear program more transparent. Washington has said it suspects Tehran may be using its nuclear program as a cover to build nuclear weapons. Iran insists its program is intended only to provide electricity.

Cairo University political science department head Hassan Nafae says other countries, including neighboring Arab states, are concerned about Iran's nuclear capabilities and are applying pressure on Tehran to accept tougher inspections.

"It has to do an extra effort to convince the international community that there is no real interest in producing an atomic bomb and the nuclear project is only for specific purposes," he said. "That is why I think Iran is serious about accepting further inspection to its nuclear program."

Mr. Nafae says there is a prevailing view among many in the Arab public that if Iran were to produce nuclear weapons it would act as a counter-balance to Israel's nuclear capabilities. But he says, politically, Arab states are more interested in seeing the region be free of such weapons.

"Most of the Arab countries would like to see Iran relinquish its program, but also they are very much willing to see Israel accepting this kind of inspections and relinquishing, also, its own nuclear program," added Mr. Nafae.

While Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, the IAEA this week expressed concern, saying many unanswered questions remain, particularly about Tehran's uranium enrichment activities.