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IAEA: Iran More Forthcoming But Questions Remain

The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency says Iran has provided new information about its controversial nuclear program, but not in a consistent and complete manner. In a new report, the International Atomic Energy Agency says it is not yet in a position to determine whether Iran's nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes. From United Nations headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

The 11-page report from IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei says Iran needs to continue to build confidence about the scope and nature of its nuclear program.

ElBaradei says Iran has not heeded two Security Council resolutions demanding it suspend uranium enrichment activities, and has continued the operation of two fuel enrichment plants as well as starting development of a new generation of centrifuges. He says Iran has also continued the construction of a heavy water nuclear reactor and production plant.

Iran argues that it has satisfactorily answered all outstanding questions about its nuclear program, but the IAEA chief's report says important questions remain unanswered. He said one issue of "serious concern" and critical to assessing whether Iran's nuclear program might have a military dimension is a project involving uranium processing, high explosives and a missile warhead design.

Iran has maintained such allegations are baseless, but ElBaradei says without further information, the IAEA is not yet in a position to determine the full nature of Iran's nuclear program.

He also urged Iran to agree to provide an expanded declaration of its nuclear activities and grant the IAEA broader rights of access to sites in the country. He said this is especially important, in light of the many years of undeclared nuclear activities in Iran and the lack of confidence that has created.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said early Friday that U.S. officials had not yet seen the report. He says the United States is concerned that Iran is still deeply in non-compliance with international obligations and that many questions about its nuclear program remain.

"You have heard about the Iranians cooperating in the past. You've heard that over the past couple of years, yet still many, many questions remain. And still you have the Iranian government continuing with their enrichment activities in defiance of the international community," he said.

The IAEA has been trying to verify the nature of Iran's nuclear program since February 2003. On Thursday, the French and British introduced a resolution into the Security Council seeking a third round of U.N. sanctions against Iran for its lack of compliance in suspending uranium enrichment. A vote on the resolution could come as early as next week.