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Iranian Officials Insist on Peaceful Aim of Nuclear Program - 2004-03-07

One day before U.N. discussions about Iran's nuclear program open in Vienna, senior Iranian officials are repeating statements that their nuclear efforts are peaceful. They are calling for the International Atomic Energy Agency to close its 13-month investigation into Iran's nuclear activities. The head of Iran's security council, Hassan Rohani, says Iran should be recognized as a country that has a nuclear program and enriches uranium, but purely for peaceful purposes.

Mr. Rohani says Iran has taken steps to build confidence among members of the international community. He says it is time for Iran to be recognized as a member of the atomic club.

But Iran has been under a cloud since inspectors discovered it had components that could be used for building weapons. They also found traces of radioactive elements that Iran did not disclose when it opened its nuclear program to international inspectors last year.

U.S. officials suspect Iran is hiding a program to build nuclear weapons.

Analyst Mohamed Abdel Salem, an expert on nuclear issues at Cairo's Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, says Iran is trying to do some last-minute damage control.

He says Iran expects that the U.N. nuclear agency could take drastic steps, and is trying to highlight its cooperation.

But Mr. Salem says the matter is not likely to result in Security Council sanctions against Iran. He says neither the United States nor Iran wants to escalate tensions in the region.

The IAEA is scheduled to begin several days of talks on Monday about nuclear issues in Iran, and also in Libya and Pakistan.