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UN welcomes European-Iranian meeting on weapons

UN nuclear agency head welcomes European-Iranian meeting on weapons issue

The head of the United Nations agency entrusted with curbing the spread of nuclear arms today welcomed the scheduled meeting tomorrow between European foreign ministers and Iranian officials and called on Iran to show “full transparency” over a nuclear programme seen by some as an effort to produce weapons.

“I urge all parties to use this opportunity to create the necessary conditions to return to negotiations,” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said of the meeting, which comes just three days before he is due to present his latest report on Iran's nuclear activities to the IAEA's Board of Governors.

In its latest action following the discovery in 2003 that Iran had concealed its nuclear activities for 18 years in breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Board last month passed a resolution asking Mr. ElBaradei to report on the issue to the UN Security Council, which can impose sanctions.

“I call on Iran to demonstrate full transparency toward the IAEA to resolve important outstanding issues related to its nuclear programme,” Mr. ElBaradei said today. “I also call on Iran to take all the necessary confidence building measures required to assure the international community of the peaceful nature of its nuclear programme.”

France, Germany and the United Kingdom ? the so-called EU-3 whose foreign ministers will meet with Iranian officials in Vienna tomorrow ? called off their efforts to find a diplomatic solution after Iran last August rescinded its voluntary suspension of nuclear fuel conversion, which can produce the enriched uranium necessary either for nuclear power generation or for nuclear weapons.

Iran says its activities are solely for peaceful energy purposes but the United States and other countries insist that it is clandestinely seeking to produce weapons. Mr. ElBaradei has said that while IAEA inspectors have not found evidence that Iran is pursuing such an arsenal, the agency also cannot affirm positively that it is not doing so.

“As the negotiations proceed, it will be essential for all parties to specifically address the security, political and economic issues that underlie any future comprehensive settlement,” he declared in today's statement.

“Only through these two tracks - full transparency on the part of Iran and negotiations with all concerned parties - can confidence be established regarding the nature of Iran's nuclear programme and a durable solution be found.”

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