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IAEA begins meeting on Iran nuclear stalemate

world Updated: Sep 22, 2008 15:32 IST

AFP
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The UN atomic watchdog's 35-member board of governors gathered in Vienna on Monday for a week-long meeting where Iran's controversial atomic drive was once again expected to top the agenda.

The meeting, which is slated to run all week but could be wrapped up as early as on Wednesday, according to some diplomats, began at 10:30 am (0830 GMT), with Director General Mohamed ElBaradei set to make the opening address.

In addition to Iran, IAEA governors were also expected to be updated on the state of the agency's investigation into allegations that Syria had been building a secret nuclear facility until it was destroyed in a bombing raid by Israel a year ago.

Libya was also on the agenda following ElBaradei's latest report on the country's clandestine nuclear weapons programme, which it abandoned in 2003.

Nevertheless, as at previous board meetings, it will be the Iran dossier that will dominate proceedings.

A new report by ElBaradei accused Tehran of stalling the IAEA's investigation, refusing to provide access to documentation, individuals or sites which could reveal the true nature of its activities.

The watchdog has been investigating the Islamic republic's contested nuclear drive for five years, but has so far been unable to determine whether the programme is entirely peaceful as Iran claims.

At the moment, the agency and Iran are -- in the words of a senior official -- "gridlocked" over Tehran's refusal to provide proof that it was not involved in studies to make a nuclear warhead, as a wide range of intelligence suggests it was.

A number of diplomats accredited to the IAEA have spoken of the agency's increasing frustration that Tehran has done little more than dismiss the so-called "alleged studies" as "false" and "fabricated".