Iran to Nuke Watchdog: Remove Surveillance

Published February 07, 2006

| Associated Press

Iran told the International Atomic Energy Agency to remove surveillance cameras and agency seals from sites and nuclear equipment by the end of next week, the U.N. watchdog agency said Monday.

Iran's demands came two days after the IAEA reported Tehran to the Security Council over its disputed atomic program. The council has the power to impose economic and political sanctions.

In a confidential report to the IAEA's 35-member board, agency head Mohamed ElBaradei said Iran also announced a sharp reduction in the number and kind of inspections IAEA experts will be allowed, effective immediately.

The report was dated Monday and made available to The Associated Press.

The moves were expected. Iranian officials had repeatedly warned they would stop honoring the so-called "Additional Protocol" to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty — an agreement giving IAEA inspectors greater inspecting authority — if the IAEA board referred their country to the Security Council.

A diplomat close to the Vienna-based IAEA told the AP that Iran had also made good on another threat — formally setting a date for resuming full-scale work on its uranium enrichment program, which can make either fuel or the nuclear core of warheads.

The diplomat, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the matter was confidential, refused to divulge the date set by Ali Larijani, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, in a letter received Monday by ElBaradei.

In his brief report, ElBaradei cited E. Khalilipour, vice president of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, as saying: "From the date of this letter, all voluntarily suspended non-legally binding measures including the provisions of the Additional Protocol and even beyond that will be suspended."

Calling on the agency to sharply reduce the number of inspectors in Iran, Khalilipour added: "All the Agency's containment and surveillance measures which were in place beyond the normal Agency safeguards measures should be removed by mid-February 2006."

Earlier, Russia's foreign minister warned against threatening Iran over its nuclear program after Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld reportedly agreed with a German interviewer that all options, including military response, remained on the table.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called for talks to continue with Tehran, adding: "I think that at the current stage, it is important not to make guesses about what will happen and even more important not to make threats."

Lavrov said the use of force would be possible only if the United Nations consented.

Rumsfeld, in an interview with the German daily newspaper Handelsblatt, was asked if all options, including the military one, were on the table with Iran.

"That's right," Rumsfeld responded, according to Handelsblatt's print edition Monday.

In Norway, China's foreign minister urged continued diplomatic efforts to resolve the standoff.

"A diplomatic solution serves the common interest," Li Zhaoxing said during an official visit. "We are still working on our Iranian colleagues to cherish negotiations."

However, Li warned that time was "already pressing" for efforts to resolve the dispute before it reaches the Security Council.

Li declined to stay whether China would support sanctions against Iran.

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