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Non-Aligned Nations Hold Key to Int'l Action on Iran's Nuclear Program - 2003-09-07

The International Atomic Energy Agency is meeting in Vienna to discuss the Iranian nuclear program. A Western compromise resolution seeking Iran's full disclosure of that program needs the support of non-aligned countries of which Iran is a member.

The IAEA board of governors begins four days of talks Monday and high on the agenda is consideration of a new report on Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The Bush administration suspects Tehran wants to build nuclear weapons and wants the IAEA board to pass a resolution requiring Iran to fully reveal its nuclear program and allow surprise inspections from the IAEA. But the 35-member board includes 15 members of the Non-Aligned Movement, to which Iran also belongs. Other Non-Aligned Movement countries are Cuba and Sudan, listed by Washington as state sponsors of international terrorism. But the chair of the non-aligned movement on the IAEA board is currently held by ambassador Hussein Haniff from Malaysia, and he says the group encourages countries to sign an additional protocol that would give the U.N. watchdog more scope for inspections.

"We have always stressed the point that countries that have major nuclear programs for peaceful purposes should sign and accede to the additional protocol," said Mr. haniff, "and indeed quite a number of members of NAM [Non-Aligned Movement] have already acceded to the additional protocol and that would be something the NAM would be calling on."

Mr. Haniff says he does understand that Iran wants guarantees protecting its sovereignty before signing such an agreement. Western diplomats say there can be no negotiations on the protocol and "one size fits all".

They also say the additional protocol is only useful for the future and cannot be implemented so long as Iran is covering up the past. The diplomats say more members in the Non-Aligned Movement are becoming uncomfortable with the Iran's nuclear activities. They say some tests recently conducted by Iran make no sense unless it is aiming to become the world's next nuclear power.

Observers say the board is likely to adopt a compromise resolution calling for Iran to urgently meet its international obligations and fully co-operate with IAEA inspection teams so that another report can be made for a November meeting.

Iran maintains it has nothing to hide and says its nuclear program is designed to generate electricity.