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After US offer of talks, UN atomic watchdog urges Iran to suspend nuclear activities

After US offer of talks, UN atomic watchdog urges Iran to suspend nuclear activities

The United Nations atomic watchdog agency has again called on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, the condition set by the United States for joining in talks with the Islamic Republic aimed at ensuring that its nuclear programme is solely for peaceful purposes.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohammed ElBaradei welcomed yesterday’s US announcement of its readiness to join the European Union-led talks “once Iran responds positively to the IAEA Board of Governor’s call for the suspension of enrichment-related and reprocessing activities as a confidence-building measure.

“Dr. ElBaradei strongly encourages Iran to create the conditions necessary for the resumption of these talks, with US participation, with a view to achieving a comprehensive settlement that is acceptable to both the international community and Iran,” the Agency added in a statement.

Mr. ElBaradei, who has consistently called for talks to resolve diplomatically suspicions that Iran’s atomic programme is aimed at producing nuclear weapons, discussed the issue with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington last week.

Earlier this year, the IAEA referred the issue to the Security Council, which can impose sanctions, after Mr. ElBaradei reported that although the Agency had not seen any diversion of material to nuclear weapons or other explosive devices, it was still not able to conclude that there were no undeclared Iranian nuclear materials or activities.

Iran says its activities are solely for energy purposes but the United States and other countries insist it is clandestinely seeking to produce nuclear weapons. Last August, Iran rescinded its voluntary suspension of nuclear fuel conversion, which can produce the enriched uranium necessary either for nuclear power generation or for nuclear weapons.