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U.N. Nuclear Watchdog Chief Criticizes Iran Openness

BY Admin  June 14, 2004 at 12:14 PM EDT

White House spokesman Scott McClellan told Reuters the United States shared the “serious concerns” expressed by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei. McClellan stopped short of publicly calling for a deadline to be set for compliance.

ElBaradei warned that the inspections could not drag on forever.

“It is essential for the integrity and credibility of the inspection process that we are able to bring these issues to a close within the next few months, and provide the international community with the assurances it urgently seeks regarding Iran’s nuclear activities,” he told the IAEA’s board of governors.

ElBaradei said IAEA member states would decide whether to set a deadline, but he emphasized that Iran must stop delaying and changing its story.

“We still have a central issue, and that is whether Iran has declared all its (uranium) enrichment activities,” ElBaradei said, demanding “accelerated and proactive cooperation.”

The United States has accused Iran of trying to build a nuclear weapon under the guise of a civilian atomic energy program. Officials in Tehran have denied the charge, insisting the program is only interested in generating electricity.

ElBaradei underscored his concerns over the detection of traces of low-enriched and highly enriched uranium, and over Tehran’s work with advanced P-2 centrifuges. The P-2 centrifuge is used to enrich, or purify, uranium for use in an atomic reactor or nuclear weapon.

Information Tehran has provided on its P-2 program had been “changing and at times contradictory,” ElBaradei said.

U.S. representative to the IAEA Kenneth Brill told reporters ElBaradei’s remarks were “a firm message that Iran has to do much better than it has been doing.”

Meanwhile, Iran wants recognition for the information it has disclosed to the IAEA and has said failure to give it due credit will affect future cooperation.

Tehran’s senior delegate Hossein Mousavian told reporters the country was providing “full cooperation,” supplying all information requested and narrowing down the range of outstanding issues.

Newly elected hardline lawmakers in Tehran have threatened not to ratify a tough IAEA protocol allowing snap inspections, which Iran signed last year and has so far been implementing.

“If Western governments impose extreme demands, the parliament will not sign the protocol,” parliamentarian Mohammad Reza Tajeddini said Monday in a newspaper article.