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IAEA Confident It Can Monitor Iran Deal

An August 2004 satellite image provided by DigitalGlobe and the Institute for Science and International Security shows the military complex at Parchin, Iran, 30 kilometers southeast of Tehran.

The United Nations nuclear watchdog chief said Tuesday he is confident about his agency's ability to determine if Iran sought to develop a nuclear weapon more than a decade ago.

"The arrangements made with Iran are technically sound and consistent with IAEA safeguards practices," International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano said at a meeting in Vienna. "They do not compromise our standards in any way."

The Iran deal with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency was reached as a side accord in mid-July as the United States and five other world powers reached an agreement with Tehran to monitor its future nuclear activities, barring it from building a nuclear weapon in exchange for lifting sanctions that have hobbled the Iranian economy.

But the IAEA agreement investigating Iran's alleged nuclear weapons development at the Parchin military base outside Tehran at least until 2003 is unusual.

Inspections are usually carried out by agency monitors, but a week ago the Associated Press reported that in this instance Iran would be allowed to investigate the activity it has denied doing, building a nuclear weapon.

U.S. critics of the international accord with Iran monitoring its future nuclear activities are citing the IAEA pact as reason to distrust Iran assurances that its nuclear program is for civilian purposes.

Amano said Iran recently handed its investigators a "substantive volume" of information about its nuclear activities, but that it is premature to know whether any of it divulged new details related to possible nuclear weapons development.

"We are now studying the explanation in writing which we received on the 15th of August," Amano said. "We can say, discuss the details of the explanation submitted by Iran. Next step will be for us to study, review and ask questions by the 15th of September and then Iran and IAEA will engage in the substantiation process."

The IAEA, with up to 10 inspectors in Iran every day, is tasked with monitoring Tehran's nuclear program. On Monday, Amano asked the agency's member states to provide an extra $10.6 million annually to carry out the inspections in Iran.

Several countries have already pledged more funding and the U.S. said Tuesday it would make sure the agency has enough money to assure that Iran is keeping its commitments under the pact.

Both chambers of the U.S. Congress will vote next month whether to approve the Iran accord. President Barack Obama has vowed to veto a rejection of the deal, which would require both houses to muster two-thirds majorities to override the veto.