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IAEA Approves Tougher Nuclear Inspections for Iran - 2003-11-21

The International Atomic Energy Agency has formally approved Iran's decision to allow tougher nuclear inspections, but has not been able to agree on a resolution on Iran's nuclear program. The IAEA has put off the decision until next week.

The IAEA Board of Governors Friday accepted Tehran's pledge that it would comply with an additional protocol to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, and open its facilities to more intrusive nuclear inspections. Iran has yet to sign the protocol, but the IAEA hopes Tehran will comply right away.

But, after two days of talks, the 35-member IAEA Board of Directors could not agree on the text of a resolution on Iran's nuclear program.

"Now, we are discussing the remaining issue, which is how the board would respond to my report," said Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the IAEA. "We will have a meeting this afternoon to hear the rest of the speakers, and we will reconvene on Wednesday. And by that time, we will have a draft resolution, hopefully to be adopted, I still believe, by consensus."

Mr. ElBaradei had earlier told the board Iran is guilty of numerous breaches and failures, but he said there were no grounds to conclude Iran has a secret nuclear weapons program.

The United States maintains Tehran is hiding a military nuclear program, and insists the IAEA take a tough stand against Iran. Diplomats close to the agency said there was disagreement between Mr. ElBaradei and the U.S. delegation at the meeting.

The United States told the board that Iran is guilty of denial, delay and deceit, and there was no reason to assume this has stopped. Mr. ElBaradei objected, saying this called the credibility and professionalism of his agency into question.

The United States wants the IAEA board to find Iran is not in compliance with its international obligations. That would mean Iran would be hauled before the U.N. Security Council. But such tough wording has few backers.

Iranian envoy Ali Akbar Salehi told reporters that the United States was becoming increasingly isolated.

"We think that the American delegation, or the U.S. as a whole, is sort of a hostage to its own accusations, past accusations, and they hold to that, and I think the majority of the board are looking forward to see that this whole issue is resolved peacefully," he said.

With the final wording of the resolution still up in the air, the board adjourned until next week.