AFP: UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei met Iranian leaders on Saturday on a visit aimed at persuading Tehran to intensify cooperation with his agency over its contested nuclear programme. TEHRAN (AFP) UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei met Iranian leaders on Saturday on a visit aimed at persuading Tehran to intensify cooperation with his agency over its contested nuclear programme.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told ElBaradei that Iran would not submit to the demands of its arch foe the United States in the standoff over the nuclear drive, which the West fears could be aimed at producing a bomb.
“The Americans think wrongly that they can the make the Islamic Republic of Iran submit by pressuring it on the nuclear issue,” Khamenei told ElBaradei in his first ever meeting with Iran’s undisputed number one.
“But they cannot make the Iranian nation submit by bringing up these issues and others,” Khamenei was quoted as saying by state media.
ElBaradei’s meeting with Khamenei was a rarity for any visiting head of an international organisation. When the then UN secretary general Kofi Annan visited Iran in 2006, he was not given an audience with Khamenei.
Making his first trip to Iran in one and a half years, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director general also met hardline top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
In talks on Friday with the head of the Iranian atomic energy organisation, Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, ElBaradei urged Tehran to be quicker in answering the IAEA’s questions about remaining areas of doubt in its atomic drive.
“I discussed with Mr Aghazadeh how we can work together and accelerate the pace of our cooperation to clarify all outstanding issues before my report (to the IAEA board of governors) in March,” ElBaradei told reporters.
Ahmadinejad, who has vowed never to make the slightest concession in the nuclear crisis, charged that Western powers were seeking to put pressure on the IAEA.
“Some countries think that the IAEA was created just to implement their own policies, which is unjust and abnormal,” he said.
Despite a four-year probe into Tehran’s atomic drive, the IAEA has so far been unable to determine whether the programme is peaceful. The aim of its cooperation with Tehran is to draw the investigation to a conclusion.
The United States is maintaining its pressure at the Security Council for a third set of UN sanctions against Iran but Tehran is hoping its cooperation with the agency will stave off further punitive measures.
Khamenei also reaffirmed that Iran “is against building and using nuclear weapons, on the basis of its religion and principles.” He said there was “no justification” for Iran’s case to be taken up by the UN Security Council.
As part of a cooperation deal agreed in August, Iran and the IAEA have already held talks over three areas of past doubts — uranium particle contamination, Iran’s past experiments with plutonium, and its use of uranium-enriching P1 and P2 centrifuges.
Vienna-based diplomats said talks would now turn to the possible military use of Iran’s nuclear technology, the last and possibly most significant item on the list.
A US intelligence report that said Iran halted a nuclear weapons programme in 2003 appears to have momentarily taken the heat out of the atomic crisis, but Washington still wants new UN sanctions.
World powers have repeatedly called on Iran to freeze uranium enrichment — which can be used to make either nuclear fuel or a bomb — but Iran has insisted its programme is peaceful and that it has the right to master the full fuel cycle.
ElBaradei last visited Iran in April 2006, when he notably failed to win any concession from Tehran on the question of enrichment.
His latest trip to Iran coincided with a Middle East tour by US President George W. Bush, who this week declared his belief that “Iran is a threat to world peace.”
Even after the release of the intelligence report, the enmity between the two foes was highlighted last week when Washington accused Tehran of harassing its ships in the entrance to the Gulf.