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'Nothing to Hide' in Our Nuclear Program, says Iran's FM - 2003-09-30

Amid growing international pressure on Iran regarding its nuclear program, the country's foreign minister on Monday said Iran was open to inspections and "has nothing to hide," but wants to continue using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, are due in Iran this week, hoping to resume inspections of Iran's nuclear sites.

Earlier Monday, an Iranian official acknowledged traces of highly enriched uranium were found at a second site in Iran, but denied it was produced in Iran. Iran says its nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes only.

In his speech at Columbia University, Mr. Kharazi said Iran has been open with IAEA inspectors. He said Iran does not object in principle to more severe inspections, which would be called for under a protocol currently under negotiation.

"In principle we don't have any problem with that, because we don't have anything to hide," Mr. Kharazi said. "And we want to be transparent. But the question is, if that additional protocol is enough for us, or not. If it is enough, that means that, after signing [the] additional protocol, we can go ahead and continue our efforts to use nuclear energy, nuclear technology for peaceful purposes,including enriching uranium for producing fuel needed in our power plants."

On Saturday, President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed that Iran should not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons and called on Iran to cooperate more fully with the IAEA.

Mr. Kharazi expressed reservations about the additional protocol in light of U.S. pressure. "We hear voices from Washington that say additional protocol is not enough," he said. "So the question in Iran is, if it is not enough, why we should sign it?"

The IAEA has given Iran until October 31 to show it does not have a nuclear weapons program.