Iran 'committed' to nuclear treaty
VIENNA, Austria -- The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation says his country is committed to a nuclear non-proliferation treaty and will continue talks aimed at allowing snap inspections of its nuclear facilities.
"Iran is fully committed to its NPT ((non-proliferation treaty) responsibilities," Gholamreza Aghazadeh told a meeting of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.
Aghazadeh said he would go ahead with talks with the IAEA on signing a protocol permitting snap short-notice inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities, Reuters reported.
IAEA inspectors can only visit declared nuclear sites. The new protocol would enable them to inspect undeclared facilities for signs of secret weapons programs.
Aghazadeh's comments Monday may ease concerns over Iran's level of cooperation with the nuclear watchdog.
Tensions came to ahead Friday when Iran walked out of IAEA meeting in response to a resolution setting a deadline of October 31 for the country to prove it is not secretly developing nuclear weapons.
Tehran has repeatedly warned it will not accept any deadline carrying the possibility of U.N. Security Council involvement and even sanctions, implying that such a decision would aggravate nuclear tensions.
The Iranian delegation circulated a statement to reporters at IAEA headquarters in Vienna that said the resolution could "kill an otherwise constructive process."
"We will have no choice, but to have a deep review of our existing level and extent of engagement with the agency," the Iranian statement said Friday.
IAEA inspectors have conducted searches in Iran over the last six months, but have questions about its nuclear program. Iran has maintained its nuclear program is solely for electricity.
In an interview with CNN, IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said the agency has "a number of questions, a number of outstanding issues on very specific technical matters -- but significant ones -- that need to be cleared up."
"What the IAEA inspectors need is accelerated cooperation, full transparency on the part of Iran, so that we can clear up these questions in a matter of weeks, and not months and months," she said Friday.
"We would hope that this resolution doesn't have an effect of turning the Iranians away from cooperation."
The resolution did not spell out consequences for non-compliance, but diplomats said the U.N. Security Council could take up the matter if the next IAEA board meeting in November found Tehran to still be uncooperative.
Of particular concern is a nuclear enrichment facility in the town of Natanz, where inspectors reported finding particles that contained a higher percentage of enriched uranium than is needed for the civilian power program Iran says the plant will serve.
Iranian officials told the agency those traces came from equipment imported from another country.
The United States has accused Iran of secretly developing a nuclear weapons program. Iran insists that its nuclear program is peaceful and aimed at producing 6,000 megawatts of electricity, an amount they said would be needed in the country in 20 years time.
President George W. Bush has called Iran, North Korea and Iraq under the former regime of Saddam Hussein an "axis of evil."