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EU Warns Iran to Cooperate with IAEA - 2003-07-21

European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels have expressed what they called their increasing concern over Iran's nuclear program and say they will review the bloc's relations with Iran unless it cooperates more fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

It was the strongest statement so far to come from the EU on Iran's nuclear program.

The ministers urged Iran to allow more intrusive, short-notice inspections of its nuclear facilities and said the EU's relationship with the Islamic republic will depend to a large extent on whether it cooperates with the United Nations agency tasked with carrying out those inspections.

The ministers also made clear that the EU wants Iran to cooperate more closely with the West in fighting terrorism, adopt a positive attitude to peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and improve its human rights record.

They expressed shock at what they called the violent death of an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist, Zahra Kazemi, who died of a fractured skull while under detention by the Iranian authorities. The ministers say Iran should investigate Ms. Kazemi's death and prosecute those responsible. They also called for a halt to Iran's crackdown against journalists and students and demanded the release of detained protesters.

But it is the nuclear issue that most concerns the EU. The ministers said the 15-nation bloc will review its ties with Iran in September after a report by IAEA director general Mohammed ElBaradei on the country's nuclear program.

Iran's weapons program was also raised in talks between the EU ministers and their Israeli counterpart, Silvan Shalom. Mr. Shalom warned that a new ballistic missile deployed by Iran cannot only reach his country but Europe as well.

The EU ministers met separately with Mr. Shalom and Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath and urged them to move ahead with confidence-building measures in support of the so-called road map for Mideast peace.

Mr. Shalom indicated that his country is willing to let the EU, which it has long suspected of being pro-Palestinian, play a bigger part in the peace process. The EU is a co-sponsor of the road map, which aims to end the Palestinian uprising by holding out the promise of a Palestinian state by the year 2005. But it would like to be more involved in monitoring compliance with the plan.

The EU also insists on maintaining contact with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who is now shunned by Israel and its American ally. Asked about that discrepancy, Mr. Shalom said among friends, we can agree to disagree.