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IAEA to Send Nuclear Experts to Iran - 2003-10-17


The International Atomic Energy Agency says it is sending a team of experts to Iran this weekend to work on what is expected to be the final details for a legal agreement on tougher nuclear inspections.

The head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, says Tehran has expressed a readiness to sign an additional protocol to allow more intrusive inspections, but some details need to be worked out. Legal experts from the agency will go through these points during the weekend in the Iranian capital. The IAEA, the United Nations nuclear watchdog, says Iran cannot have any special concessions.

The agency says the protocol includes guarantees on confidentiality, and it does not mean that inspectors have a blank check to go where they want.

The IAEA says that signing the protocol would be seen as a confidence-building measure by Iran, which has been accused by the United States of working on a secret nuclear weapons program.

At the Islamic conference meeting in Indonesia on Friday, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami insisted that his country would not build nuclear weapons. He also pledged that Tehran would continue cooperating with the IAEA as the October 31 deadline the agency has given Iran to answer questions on its nuclear program approaches.

But Firouz Mahvi, a spokesman for an Iranian exile opposition group, says Tehran would sign the protocol only in hopes of reducing international pressure on the country.

"At present the regime is engaged in a delay tactic in response to IAEA's October 31 deadline," he said. "Khatami, the Iranian regime's president, said even if the government were to accept to sign the additional protocol, the Majilis, the so-called parliament of the regime and the guardian council, must also approve this decision."

Mr. Mahvi said this could take months or longer.

The IAEA board of governors meets at the end of November to judge whether Iran has done enough to prove that its nuclear program is purely peaceful.

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