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Iran to Allow Resumption of Nuclear Inspections - 2004-03-15

Iran said Monday it will allow the resumption of nuclear inspections, which were suspended last week. The inspections are to resume by the end of the month.

The head of Iran's nuclear program, Hassan Rohani, said his government will definitely reach an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency for the resumption of nuclear inspections.

Tehran suspended the inspections last week while the IAEA was drafting a resolution criticizing Tehran for failing to disclose its possession of advanced centrifuges capable of producing atomic bomb-grade uranium.

The 35 member IAEA board of governors adopted the resolution Saturday. Iranian officials described the resolution as unfair and insulting.

And despite Mr. Rohani's assurances that the nuclear inspectors would be allowed to return, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi warned Sunday that Tehran's future cooperation with the IAEA could change as a result of the resolution.

The head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, who is in Washington, said inspections would resume by the end of March.

But an expert on Iran, Amal Hamada, who lecturers at Cairo University, said she would not be surprised if Tehran again changed its mind about whether to let the inspectors back into the country. She said it is a negotiating tactic long employed by the Iranian government.

"Tomorrow, you will see, they will say, no we can't let them in or we have to postpone their visit, we're not ready to receive them. They will come up with something new," she said.

Iranian officials said Monday resolving the issue of inspections was not complicated and described it as a technical problem. IAEA officials have said they expect Tehran will allow the return of the inspectors.

Iranian hard-liners have called for Tehran to halt all cooperation with the IAEA, accusing the U.N. nuclear watchdog of attempting to deprive Iran of nuclear technology.

The United States has accused Iran of pursuing a clandestine nuclear weapons program, but Tehran has denied this and insists its atomic program is intended solely for civilian purposes.