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IAEA chief to visit Iran

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International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency will visit Iran this week for talks about that nation's nuclear activities, a spokeswoman for the group told CNN Sunday.

International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Mohammed ElBaradei will arrive in Tehran Tuesday or Wednesday, the spokeswoman said.

IAEA inspectors arrived at Iran's Isfahan uranium conversion facility Sunday for a look at operations there. Inspection visits to Iran's facilities are arranged in advance since Iran stopped cooperation in February with the agency's snap visits.

The U.N. Security Council last month called on Iran to stop enriching uranium -- an activity Iran says is part of its right to create nuclear energy. But much of the West, led by the United States, fears that Iran's nuclear energy program is a front for a nuclear weapons program.

Iran steadfastly denies it is seeking to build nuclear weapons.

Talks between Iran and the EU-3 -- Britain, France and Germany -- stalled in January when Iran began small-scale uranium enrichment and ended its voluntary cooperation with the IAEA, which had been conducting surprise inspections.

Meanwhile, British Foreign Minister Jack Straw said it was "nuts" to suggest that the United States is secretly considering a nuclear strike on Iran to stop its program, as suggested by writer Seymour Hersch in an article in the April 17 issue of The New Yorker.

"They (the Bush administration) are very committed indeed to resolving this issue, which is a complicated issue, by negotiation and yes, by diplomatic pressure," Straw said in a BBC interview. "And what the Iranians need to do is recognize they have overplayed their hands at each stage."

Hersch, quoting unidentified sources, wrote that the United States is planning for a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities and that a tactical nuclear strike is an option under consideration. (Full story)

The United States has repeatedly said that it wants to settle the matter diplomatically, but the White House has also said that nothing -- including military action -- is off the table.

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