Tags: Iran | Defies | World | Nuclear | Inspections

Iran Defies World on Nuclear Inspections

Monday, 02 June 2003 12:00 AM

"I don't think America is worried about Iran's nuclear activities. If they are, we invite them to come and participate in these programs and construct the facilities," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

He said his country would sign the additional protocol if sanctions against Iran's nuclear programs were lifted and nuclear technology for peaceful purposes were put at its disposal. That position was outlined Friday by Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi.

Iran is being pressured by the world, including its allies in Russia and the European Union, to sign the protocol, which would oblige Tehran to open its nuclear facilities to U.N. scrutiny without prior notice.

The Group of Eight countries meeting in France issued a statement calling on Tehran to accept greater scrutiny from the weapons inspectors.

"We will not ignore the proliferation implications of Iran's advanced nuclear program," the statement said.

The leaders also urged North Korea to "visibly, verifiably and irreversibly dismantle any nuclear weapons programs."

The G8 - the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, plus Russia - appealed to Tehran to comply with its NPT obligations.

In St. Petersburg, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov had similar demands Sunday.

"We call on Iran to sign this protocol," he said. "This would be an important step toward lifting the concerns to the international community regarding Iran's nuclear program."

Iran is building, with Russia's help, its first nuclear reactor near the southern port of Bushehr. The plant is expected to be commissioned by either late 2003 or early 2004, Iranian and Russian officials say.

Iran says its target is to reach a 6,000-megawatt capacity of nuclear-generated electricity in 20 years. Critics say Iran's construction of a costly nuclear power plant is difficult to justify because the country has the world's second-largest reserves of natural gas.

Asefi said his country was ready to discuss Ivanov's concerns. "The question of sanctions has to be resolved first," Asefi said. "It must be confirmed first how the sanctions have affected us while we are a member of the NPT. They [Western countries] must help us achieve the nuclear know-how instead of putting restrictions."

He denied Iran was pursuing a clandestine nuclear plan. "We have clearly said we want the nuclear know-how for peaceful objectives," he said. "We have other concerns about the country's reconstruction and development and there is no room for nuclear arms in our programs."

In February, Iran announced it had attained the technology to process uranium for power plants. Uranium is being mined in the Saghand area, 120 miles from the central city of Yazd. Reports also emerged in March that a nuclear power facility at the central city of Natanz was "extremely advanced" and ready to produce enriched uranium that could be used in nuclear weapons.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, is to hold a meeting in Geneva June 16-17 during which time the agency's chief Mohammad ElBaradei will report on Iran's nuclear activities.

Under NPT, the signatories, which include Iran, are only subject to IAEA inspections of declared sites.

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

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"I don't think America is worried about Iran's nuclear activities. If they are, we invite them to come and participate in these programs and construct the facilities," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported. He...
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Monday, 02 June 2003 12:00 AM
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