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Deadline Set for Iran to Clarify Nuclear Program

September 13, 2003|From Times Wire Services

VIENNA — The United Nations' nuclear watchdog on Friday set an Oct. 31 deadline for Iran to prove that it has no secret atomic weapons program, prompting Tehran's chief delegate to threaten "a deep review" of cooperation with the agency.

If the International Atomic Energy Agency board rules at its next meeting in November that Iran did not meet the resolution's demands, it could find Tehran in noncompliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty banning the spread of nuclear weapons. The U.N. Security Council could then take action ranging from criticism to economic sanctions.

Iranian officials have repeatedly said a deadline and other tough language in the resolution would aggravate tensions, and chief delegate Ali Akbar Salehi -- who walked out before the IAEA board vote -- repeated that warning Friday.

"We will have no choice but to have a deep review of our existing level and extent of engagement with the agency," he said.

U.S. representative Kenneth Brill warned that any decision by Iran to suspend the IAEA inspection process would be seen as an admission that it was pursuing atomic weapons.

Tehran says its nuclear programs are only for generating electricity.

"It is no secret that the current U.S. administration ... entertains the idea of invasion of yet another territory, as they aim to re-engineer and reshape the entire Middle East," Salehi said.

But diplomats in Vienna, where the IAEA is based, said they saw no signs that a finding of Iranian noncompliance would result in anything more than political and economic pressure.

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