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U.N. nuclear watchdog urges Iran to accept more monitoring

SHARE U.N. nuclear watchdog urges Iran to accept more monitoring

VIENNA, Austria — The U.N. nuclear monitoring agency on today pressed Iran to stop enriching atomic fuel and to give the agency all the access it needs to defuse suspicions that Tehran is operating a clandestine nuclear weapons program.

The statement by the International Atomic Energy Agency, coming after days of demanding negotiations, was a compromise designed to satisfy both Tehran and Washington. Iran has denied it is planning to make nuclear weapons, while the United States has accused Iran of trying to do so.

On Wednesday, President Bush underlined Washington's concerns, saying he and other world leaders will not tolerate nuclear weapons in Iran.

"The international community must come together to make it very clear to Iran that we will not tolerate construction of a nuclear weapon," he said.

The United States had wanted the agency to declare Iran in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The matter could then be sent to the U.N. Security Council for possible action.

The compromise language reflected the fact that the United States had met with difficulties in rounding up support for a tough resolution condemning Iran.

The statement, endorsed by the United States and other agency members, said the agency expected Iran to grant it "all access deemed necessary by the agency."

It also "encouraged Iran ... not to introduce nuclear material" at its Natanz enrichment plant pending the resolution of concerns about what it planned to do with any enriched fuel — a component of nuclear warheads.

"Iran should continue to be fully transparent," said Mohamed Elbaradei, the head of the agency. "We still have a lot of work to do."

Iran's delegate, Ali Akhbar Salehi, said his country was satisfied with the decision.

"We are happy," with the statement, he said. U.S. officials did not immediately comment on the decision, but language in the statement expressing displeasure with Tehran's failure to come clean on nuclear activities was expected to please Washington.

The United States had demanded tough action to force Iran to open up details of its nuclear program, insisting that it submit to more intrusive inspections after what it called a "deeply troubling" report from the U.N. nuclear agency.

The board shared concerns "at the number of Iran's past failures to report material, facilities and activities as required by its safeguards obligations," the statement said. "Noting the Iranian actions taken thus far to correct these failures, the board urged Iran promptly to rectify all safeguards problems ... and resolve questions that remain open."

The statement stopped short of demanding that Iran accept such inspections but urged the country to look "positively" at signing and ratifying a protocol in addition to its present commitments that would give the agency more inspection powers.

From Moscow, the Interfax news agency cited Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov as saying Moscow was pleased that the agency opted against a harsh resolution.

In Tehran, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said Wednesday that his country was not trying to build nuclear weapons. He repeated that Iran was prepared to allow unfettered inspections by the nuclear watchdog agency but expected the international community to recognize Iran's right to acquire advanced peaceful nuclear technology.

Nonaligned countries like Malaysia declined to support a tough line. Even strong U.S. allies are eager to avoid undermining Iranian reformers rather than risk strengthening hard-liners.

Iran insists its nuclear program is intended to produce electricity, which will be needed as oil supplies decline. Tehran has said it would agree to provide more access and information to inspectors, but only in exchange for more advanced nuclear technology.