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Iranian President Admits 'Past Failures' in Nuclear Program


Iranian President Mohammed Khatami is voicing optimism his country will avoid U.N. Security Council sanctions, despite an IAEA report saying Tehran had secretly produced plutonium in violation of its Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations.

President Mohamed Khatami called it natural for Iran to have had what he called "failures" in its nuclear program during the past two decades. But, "this does not mean we violated the nuclear non-proliferation treaty," he said.

Mr. Khatami was speaking to reporters two days after the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran, in the past 20 years, had repeatedly violated international obligations, given false or contradictory information on its nuclear ambitions, and had dabbled in activity often associated with bomb-making, such as plutonium production.

The report also said the United Nations' atomic watchdog had found no evidence of a secret arms program in Iran. And the report praised Iran for its recent "active cooperation and openness."

The Iranian president said he was optimistic the IAEA board, which is meeting next week, would not refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council. He said he expected no problems if the IAEA handled "the case technically and legally."

The United States, which has accused Iran of secretly pursuing an atomic-arms program, is expected to push for a vote of non-compliance against Iran at the IAEA meeting. Such a vote could lead to the U.N. Security Council's imposing sanctions.

The Iranian president said the most positive point of the IAEA report was that "there is nothing to suggest the Islamic Republic of Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons."

Under intense international pressure, Tehran has agreed to allow tougher nuclear inspections and suspend its uranium enrichment program.