REGION: IAEA urges Iran to halt enrichment activity
* Calls it vital to build confidence between Tehran and the international community
* Kharrazi describes nuclear technology as a source of pride
* ‘Nothing wrong with having nuclear technology for peaceful purposes’
DAVOS: The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) pressed Iran on Saturday to suspend more activities related to enriching uranium, a technology that can be used to make nuclear weapons.
“I am advising them that it would be good to have a very generous, comprehensive suspension,” Mohamed El Baradei told Reuters after talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “That would create confidence and it would help me and the Europeans to move forward in normalising and expanding cooperation between Iran and the international community.”
He said IAEA concerns focused on the discovery by agency inspectors in Iran of equipment contaminated with highly enriched uranium, along with continued enrichment-related activities like production of centrifuges. Iran has blamed the contamination on parts imported from elsewhere without identifying their origin.
Asked about the IAEA’s concerns, Kharrazi said: “It’s just a question of spare parts or something, it’s minor issues.” “We have very good cooperation with the IAEA,” he told Reuters. “I believe the important thing is that we do not have any programme to produce weapons and this is now established.” Washington backs European diplomacy: US Vice President Dick Cheney, also in Davos, said his country would support European diplomatic efforts to get the Iranians to agree to a more intrusive inspection regime.
“We’ll have to see whether or not that produces the desired result. We believe the Iranians have been actively and aggressively pursuing an effort to develop nuclear weapons,” Cheney told the conference of political and business leaders. “They deny that, but there seems to be a good deal of evidence out there to support the fact that that’s exactly what they have been doing,” he said.
Kharrazi said Iran’s nuclear technology was a source of pride for all Iranians. “At the same time it is totally peaceful and nothing is wrong with having nuclear technology for peaceful purposes,” he said.
“We have suspended the activities of uranium enrichment, but this does not mean we are going to stop it for ever. This is our right, based on the NPT, to have nuclear activities for peaceful purposes,” he said, referring to the provisions in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty for the sharing of nuclear know-how. —Reuters