- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 22, 2003

TEHRAN (Agence France-Presse) — The head of Iran’s atomic energy authority yesterday rejected again growing international demands for the country to immediately allow tougher U.N. inspections of its nuclear program.

But Gholam Reza Aghazadeh said he was optimistic that further negotiations would pave the way for an end to the dispute, and he pledged that Iran would show greater cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA).

“We will try to ease the worries of the world. We have cooperated with the IAEA, and we will continue to cooperate even more.” Mr. Aghazadeh told reporters.

“We are optimistic over the signing of the additional protocol, but there are ambiguities that need to be removed,” he said, adding that Iran would “study the demands of the agency” and “wishes to commence discussions with the IAEA as soon as possible.”

The IAEA has called on Iran to sign an additional protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that would permit U.N. inspectors to carry out surprise visits to suspect nuclear facilities.

So far, IAEA teams are permitted to make only prearranged visits to declared sites related to Iran’s bid to produce atomic power, a program the United States says is a cover for nuclear weapons development.

The IAEA demand has been backed up by the United States, the European Union, Group of Eight leaders, Russia, Canada and Australia, who all have told Iran to make a “confidence building” gesture immediately and without conditions.

Iran has fiercely denied that it is developing nuclear weapons and has argued that it is being treated unfairly. It has also continued to attach conditions to allowing more inspections.

Tehran has also complained that treaty signatories have refused to keep their side of the deal — their obligation to aid Iran through the transfer of peaceful atomic technology.

But Mr. Aghazadeh’s comments hinted that those conditions, effectively demanding an end to sanctions, may be waived by Iran and that the country is ready to discuss the mechanisms of additional inspections.

“There are ambiguities over the protocol. We will discuss them with the agency, as it is the right of every country to have discussions when there are ambiguities,” Mr. Aghazadeh said, without saying what he considered the ambiguities to be.

“The path we will take is that of cooperation, so as to find an acceptable solution for both parties.”

“America is not the policeman of the world. It has to use legal channels,” he said. “If the U.S. is really of good faith, they have to chose other methods. The agency [IAEA] is the correct institution for them to raise worries over such and such a country.

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