Iran to come clean on nuclear suspicions: official

1st June 2007, Comments 0 comments

1 June 2007, MADRID -Seeking to evade new U.N. sanctions, Iran has pledged to end years of stonewalling and provide answers on past suspicious activities to the U.N. nuclear monitoring agency investigating its atomic program, an official said Friday.

1 June 2007

MADRID -Seeking to evade new U.N. sanctions, Iran has pledged to end years of stonewalling and provide answers on past suspicious activities to the U.N. nuclear monitoring agency investigating its atomic program, an official said Friday.

The offer, which the official said was made Thursday by top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, falls short of the concession sought by the international community _ a promise to freeze Iran's uranium enrichment activities.

Iran refuses to consider such a freeze, but the U.N. Security Council insists on it, and past meetings between the two men have made little progress on resolving the deadlock. Larijani's overture and the decision by Solana to treat the Iranian offer seriously reflected mutual recognition that the talks needed to advance on other issues or face the risk of collapse.

Still, U.N. and other officials, who demanded anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue, said any decision by Iran to fully cooperate on clearing up past activities would represent a major concession.

They told The Associated Press that such a move could help the International Atomic Energy Agency _ the U.N. nuclear monitor _ wrap up years of efforts to establish whether Tehran's past nuclear strivings were exclusively peaceful in nature.

"This is the first time they made such a serious offer" without preconditions, one of the officials said. The official said, without elaborating, that Larijani had offered "a short timetable" for providing the answers sought by the IAEA.

The officials agreed that the move appeared to be an attempt by Iran to at least delay if not avoid the threat of new U.N. sanctions. An IAEA report last week provided the potential trigger for such penalties by saying Tehran continued to defy the Security Council ban on enrichment and instead was expanding its activities.

Larijani's offer appeared designed to address another main concern in that report _ refusal by Iran to provide answers on questionable activities during nearly two decades of clandestine nuclear activities that first came to light four years ago.

They include: traces of enriched uranium at a facility linked to the military, which could be a sign of a weapons program; lack of documentation on Iran's past enrichment activities, and possession of documents showing how to form uranium metal into the form of missile warheads.

Expressing concerns about years of stonewalling, that IAEA report warned that "unless Iran addresses the long-standing verification issues ... the agency will not be able to fully reconstruct the history of Iran's nuclear program." That, in turn, means that the IAEA cannot provide assurances ... about the exclusively peaceful nature of that program."

Still, with the main Security Council demand focusing on an enrichment freeze, it was unclear whether the overture by Larijani would suffice to blunt the possibility of new sanctions _ the third since the first set was imposed late last year.

Although Iran insists it has the right to the technology to generate nuclear power, it has been hit with U.N. sanctions because of suspicions that it wants to make the atomic bomb.

Iran's ultimate stated goal is running 54,000 centrifuges to churn out enriched uranium for what it says is power generation. But critics say that equipment could also make enough fissile material or dozens of nuclear warheads a year.

On Thursday, Solana _ representing the five permanent Security Council members plus Germany _ suggested that he and Larijani made no headway on the enrichment dispute.

"Sometimes we are not able to move the process as we like, but in any case the atmosphere continues to be very positive," he said. Both he and Larijani said the main focus of their 4½ hour talks was the "outstanding issues with the IAEA."

Larijani spoke of "some useful ideas that both sides introduced," and he mentioned "common ground" without going into detail. Solana said he and Larijani had "an exchange of ideas on how to move the process" forward, and spoke of a "good atmosphere."

Both men said their aides would meet in about a week to prepare the ground for another Solana-Larijani meeting in about two weeks' time.

With both Iran and the United States voicing hardline positions ahead of the meeting, expectations on any progress on the enrichment issue were already muted before the two men began their discussions at a former hunting estate on the outskirts of Madrid.

Diplomats told The Associated Press that, although Tehran recently suggested it was ready to discuss a partial suspension of uranium enrichment, the West did not respond and Iran has since withdrawn its offer to break the nuclear impasse.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking in Vienna, Austria, before the Madrid talks, said the onus was on Iran.

"I think it's time for Iran to change its tactics," Rice told reporters outside a conference on the role of women in the Middle East. If Iran does so, she said, "then we are prepared to ... sit with Iran and talk about whatever Iran would like to talk about.

"But that can't be done when Iran continues to pursue, to try to perfect technologies that are going to lead to a nuclear weapon," Rice said.

Larijani, in comments to the Iranian state news agency before leaving for Spain, said: "Suspension is not the right solution for solving Iran's nuclear issue."

[Copyright AP with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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