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Iran, IAEA reach accord

Iran has resolved UN questions about tests with plutonium, a key fuel for atomic bombs, and the International Atomic Energy Agency considers the matter closed.

world Updated: Aug 29, 2007 01:54 IST
Mark Heinrich

Iran has resolved UN questions about tests with plutonium, a key fuel for atomic bombs, and the International Atomic Energy Agency considers the matter closed, according to the text of an IAEA-Iran accord released on Monday.

It would be the first major issue relating to the scope of Iran’s disputed nuclear programme closed by the UN nuclear watchdog in a four-year investigation stonewalled up to now, with other questions to be settled within the next few months.

Iran and the IAEA reached a deal on August 21 meant to clarify questions about indications of illicit attempts to make atomic bombs in Iran’s declared drive for peaceful nuclear energy.

The plan’s other goal is to ensure regular, effective access for IAEA inspectors to Iran’s underground uranium enrichment plant where it plans industrial production of nuclear fuel.

But Western diplomats said the plan was flawed for not committing Iran to resume observing the IAEA’s Additional Protocol, which permits wider-ranging, short-notice inspections of sites not declared to be nuclear.

Western powers embroiled in a standoff with Iran over its refusal to heed UN resolutions demanding it stop nuclear work say there is no way to rule out the risk Iran might have a covert military nuclear facility without the Protocol in place.

And the plan also declares that once Iran had clarified the issues listed, the IAEA would declare there were “no remaining questions and ambiguities” about Iran’s past activity, a gesture analysts called problematic without more sweeping inspections.

Iran has insisted that it seeks only electricity, not explosives, from enriched uranium.

The plan’s text said IAEA officials judged last week that information given by Iran this summer abut its plutonium experiments was consistent with inspectors’ findings.

Iran and the IAEA also agreed to forge a legally binding accord governing inspections at the expanding, underground Natanz enrichment complex by the end of September.