TEHRAN, Iran – Iran will cooperate more with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the country's atomic chief said Saturday, but he suggested Tehran will ignore one agency request by maintaining plans to enrich uranium — a key step in making atomic bombs.
Meanwhile, the head of the U.N. agency said in Jordan he was assured Saturday that Iran was "ready to cooperate fully."
The United States suspects Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb — a charge Iran denies. Tehran says its nuclear operations are meant to provide electricity, particularly after oil reserves run dry.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (search) urged Iran last week to allow continued inspections of its suspect facilities and to desist from enriching nuclear fuel.
On Saturday, Iran's nuclear chief, Gholamreza Aghazadeh (search), told reporters, "We will try to step up our cooperation with the IAEA. Our cooperation with the agency will be comprehensive and at a level acceptable to the agency."
Asked whether Iran would heed the IAEA's call to stop efforts to enrich uranium, Aghazadeh said Iran will go ahead with its nuclear plans.
"The IAEA has not asked us to stop plans to enrich uranium. It was the opinion of some countries, not the agency, to only delay shipment of materials to Natanz plant," he said.
Natanz (search), which is about 200 miles south of Tehran, is where a centrifuge plant is being built.
In Jordan, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei (search) said he was assured of Iran's full cooperation. ElBaradei was attending a meeting of business and political leaders on Mideast issues.
"It would not be helpful at all if they did not have full transparency and full cooperation with the agency," ElBaradei told Associated Press Television News.
"The more transparency they show, the more cooperation they show, the more confidence we can create within the international community about the peaceful nature of their program."
Aghazadeh suggested Saturday he was standing behind earlier statements that Iran would not permit environmental sampling at "some locations" because it was "contrary to agreements signed (between Iran and the IAEA)."
"We will continue any sort of cooperation with IAEA within the framework of regulations. It doesn't mean that we have adopted a new position toward IAEA," he said.
Iran wants to control the whole fuel cycle, from mining uranium ore to enriching uranium at a centrifuge plant under construction in Natanz, central Iran. That site was inspected in February by ElBaradei.
"It's part of our rights (to enrich uranium) and we will continue our activities under the umbrella of the IAEA. Currently, IAEA cameras have been installed at Natanz and the materials used there have been sealed," Aghazadeh said.
IAEA experts inspect the plant monthly, he said.
"It's the widest and most comprehensive supervision applied to any country," he said.
Aghazadeh said the Europeans recognize "our peaceful nuclear activities."
"But the U.S. position is different," he said. "Americans make some accusations against us without proving them and then try to make judgments on the basis of those accusations."
The United States demanded the IAEA force Iran to open up its nuclear program. It also wanted Tehran declared in violation of the international Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which would allow the issue to go before the U.N. Security Council for possible action.
However, the IAEA stopped short of demanding Tehran accept unfettered inspections. Instead, it urged Iran to look "positively" at signing and ratifying a protocol that would enhance the agency's powers of inspection.
The IAEA said it expected Iran "to grant the agency all access deemed necessary by the agency" to defuse suspicions Tehran has a clandestine nuclear weapons program.
Iran, which claimed victory after Thursday's IAEA decisions, has said it will sign the inspections protocol if the IAEA provides it with advanced nuclear technology as a member state and a signatory to the nuclear treaty.
"We are optimistic about signing the additional protocol ... we only want to know whether IAEA has fulfilled its obligations toward Iran after it has signed many treaties, including NPT," Aghazadeh said Saturday.
"There are some ambiguities (over the additional protocol). We will discuss those issues with IAEA. But some issues must be cleared."