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IAEA Verifying Information in Iranian Nuclear Program - 2003-11-02

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said progress is being made in ascertaining the scope and nature of Iran's nuclear program, while Iran's ambassador to the United Nations insists his nation is not pursuing nuclear weapons.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said his agency is verifying information Iran provided on its nuclear program. The IAEA had set an October 31 deadline for Iran to prove that it had no secret nuclear weapons program, as suspected by the United States and others.

Speaking on the U.S. television program, CNN's Late Edition, Mr. ElBaradei noted that he will report to the IAEA Board of Governors on the status of Iran's nuclear disclosures when the board meets later this month.

"Iran finally agreed to full disclosure. We have received in the last 10 days what I was assured is a complete and accurate declaration [from Iran]. We are in the process of verifying that declaration. We have seen additional failures - breaches of their commitment in the past, as they themselves have [now] stated. I am going to report that next month to our [IAEA's] Board of Governors," he said.

Mr. ElBaradei added that he welcomes Iran's stated intent to confirm in the coming days that it will accept the terms of an additional protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which requires more stringent inspections of its nuclear program.

Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, who was interviewed on the same program, denied that his country has any secret nuclear weapons program or that it is pursuing such weapons. Ambassador Javad Zarif said Iran is only interested in peaceful applications of nuclear technology.

"Nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction will not augment Iran's power. They will decrease our influence and increase our vulnerability. And that is why we have made a conscious decision that weapons of mass destruction will not have a place in our [national] defense," he said.

The ambassador said Iran has a right and a need to pursue nuclear energy, given a growing population that will boost the country's energy consumption.

If the IAEA Board of Governors finds that Iran has not complied with its obligations, it could refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.