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Iran Seen Likely to Meet UN Nuclear Deadline, say Analysts - 2003-10-01

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency are due to arrive Thursday in Tehran for what have been described as crucial talks regarding Iran's extensive nuclear program. VOA's Greg LaMotte spoke with analysts in the region who say they believe Iran will meet what has been called a non-negotiable deadline to prove it is not producing nuclear weapons.

Iran is facing an October 31 deadline to prove that its nuclear program is not engaged in the secret production of nuclear weapons. If Tehran fails to fully satisfy the concerns of the International Atomic Energy Agency, it could face stiff economic and diplomatic sanctions from the U.N. Security Council.

On Thursday a team of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency is to arrive in Tehran for what are expected to be crucial talks regarding, among other things, Iran's uranium enrichment program, which could be used to produce nuclear weapons. Traces of highly enriched uranium have twice been discovered in Iran since August.

The talks will also concern on Iran's testing of centrifuges used to enrich uranium.

The European Union has warned Iran that if international concerns are not adequately addressed Tehran could lose a lucrative economic trade accord.

Iran has steadfastly denied involvement in the production of nuclear weapons, insisting its nuclear program is solely for the peaceful production of electricity.

Washington has said it believes Tehran may be using its program as a cover to build nuclear weapons.

The International Atomic Energy Agency wants Iran to sign the additional protocol of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that would allow tougher and unannounced inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities.

The head of the al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, Abdel Moneim Sa'id, says it will be critical for Iran to agree to the tougher inspections to gain international confidence. He said he is personally concerned about Iran possibly developing nuclear weapons because of an uncertain political climate in that country.

"It is very difficult for me to accept in a very fanatical regime, or at least that has a fanatic wing, to have nuclear weapons," said Mr. Sa'id. "I mean, that is a very serious situation, and I think it is a threat if it is proved to all of the region."

Mustafa el-Labbad, the editor-in-chief of Sharq Namei, a magazine that focuses on the issues of Turkey and Iran, says he is convinced that Iran is attempting to develop nuclear weapons. But he believes Tehran will sign the additional protocol, before the October 31 deadline.

"I think Iran will do it after pressure now," he said. "Western pressure is on Iran. Pressuring Iran is an important step to halt Iran from its program. I think at the end, Iran will sign the additional protocol at the end. This ultimatum, end of October, will not be done. I think Iran will agree before this date to sign the additional protocol."

The head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, says the coming weeks will be decisive and that the October 31 deadline is non-negotiable for Tehran to come forward with a full and accurate declaration of its nuclear program.