Heat rises on Iran to prove it isn't creating nuclear arms

U.N. official to visit Tehran

Russia delays reactor start

October 14, 2003|By Douglas Frantz | Douglas Frantz,LOS ANGELES TIMES

ISTANBUL, Turkey - International pressure on Iran to prove it is not developing nuclear weapons increased yesterday when the chief of the United Nations' atomic watchdog agency said he would visit Tehran this week and Russia postponed plans to start up a nuclear reactor in Iran.

Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and senior officials of his organization will visit Tehran in an attempt to persuade Iran's leaders to meet an Oct. 31 deadline to suspend its nuclear enrichment program and permit intensive inspections of its nuclear sites.

"Time is indeed running out," ElBaradei said in a statement released yesterday, adding that Iran has not provided a full accounting of its nuclear activities.

The IAEA imposed the deadline last month in response to suspicions that Iran's civilian nuclear program conceals efforts to build a weapon. Concerns have grown in recent weeks after inspectors found traces of weapons-grade uranium at two sites in Iran.

Officials in Tehran said the uranium came on contaminated equipment purchased abroad. They insisted that Iran's nuclear program is devoted solely to generating electricity and have resisted what they regard as U.S.-inspired pressure from the IAEA.

"We will not allow anyone to deprive us of our legitimate right to use the nuclear technology, particularly enrichment, for providing fuel for our plants," Kamal Kharrazi, Iran's foreign minister, was quoted as saying last week by the Islamic Republic News Agency.

Russia is building Iran's first nuclear reactor near the Persian Gulf port of Bushehr. U.S. officials fear the reactor could produce fissile material for an atomic weapon, and they have been pressuring the Russians to withdraw from the project.

Yesterday, Russia's Atomic Energy Ministry said it was postponing plans to start the reactor for a year, until 2005. It said the delay was caused by technical problems and had nothing to do with U.S. concerns over Moscow's assistance to Iran.

While several installations are suspected of playing a role in Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program, U.S. officials said they are most concerned that Iran could divert low-enriched uranium from Bushehr to a weapons program, where it could be further enriched to manufacture an atomic bomb.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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