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Iran Agrees to Allow Tougher Nuclear Inspections - 2003-12-10

Iran's government has formally approved a plan to sign an international protocol that would subject the country to tougher inspections of its nuclear facilities.

The Iranian government's decision means international nuclear inspectors will be allowed to conduct unannounced and more thorough inspections of the country's nuclear program.

The decision follows months of intense negotiations and international pressure on Iran to agree to the tougher inspections.

Iran has also agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment activities. Uranium is an essential element in the production of nuclear weapons.

Washington has accused Tehran of using its nuclear program as a cover to build atomic weapons. Last month the International Atomic Energy Agency condemned Iran for an 18-year coverup of sensitive nuclear research.

The IAEA warned Tehran any future violations would not be tolerated and would be reported to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions.

According to Iranian expert and columnist for al-Ahram newspaper, Fahmy Howeidi, the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq may have forced Iran's conservatives and moderates to reach agreement on the additional protocol.

"After the invasion of Iraq, the Iranians, they know now there's strong pressure on the area here and I think they don't want any more confrontation with any international organization or the United States, as well," he said. "They want to reduce the tension and the differences with the west and the international organizations in order not to give the United States any opportunity to increase the pressure or the conflict with the Iranian government."

Iranian officials said Wednesday the additional protocol would be signed at IAEA headquarters in Vienna, but no date was given.

The matter will then be taken up by the reformist Iranian parliament and then by the conservative Guardian Council.

However, Tehran has promised to implement the additional protocol even before it is officially ratified.