Reuters: The U.N. nuclear watchdog chief urged Iran Monday to meet a U.S. offer of unconditional talks with goodwill gestures including giving inspectors easier access to monitor its atomic program.
By Mark Heinrich and Sylvia Westall
VIENNA (Reuters) – The U.N. nuclear watchdog chief urged Iran Monday to meet a U.S. offer of unconditional talks with goodwill gestures including giving inspectors easier access to monitor its atomic program.
Friday's re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, condemned as fraudulent by losing candidates, dimmed hopes abroad for a moderate successor who might take up concern over Iran's nuclear work and seriously engage U.S. President Barack Obama.
The International Atomic Energy Agency leader did not mention the vote but said the ball was in Iran's court after Obama's overture following 30 years of U.S.-Iranian hostility.
Obama "gives reason for hope that a genuine dialogue can lead to a comprehensive settlement of many security, political and economic issues spanning over 50 years," Mohamed ElBaradei told an IAEA governors meeting.
He urged Iran to respond with "an equal gesture of goodwill and trust-building," for example by lifting restrictions on U.N. inspectors which prevent them from checking that Iran's uranium enrichment campaign is not being diverted to making atom bombs.
Ahmadinejad said Sunday Iran's nuclear issue "belongs in the past," indicating there would be no concessions during his second term in office.
The United States and five other world powers earlier this year improved a 2006 package of diplomatic and trade incentives offered to Iran to suspend enrichment and dropped a demand for a nuclear halt before talks can even begin.
But Iran has promised only readiness to negotiate a broader, vague palette of peace and security issues while saying its nuclear fuel campaign is a non-negotiable fait accompli.
Ahmadinejad has welcomed Obama's gesture but said he was awaiting real U.S. policy changes to back up the conciliatory talk. Washington had deferred action in the hope of Ahmadinejad losing the election to a moderate.
ElBaradei pushed Iran to accept a temporary "freeze for freeze" formula — no further expansion of enrichment for no increase in U.N. sanctions — suggested by the six powers to jumpstart talks. But Tehran has ruled that out as well.
A June 5 IAEA report said Iran now has over 7,000 centrifuge enrichment machines installed and stockpiled what U.S. analysts said was enough potential nuclear fuel to be reprocessed into fissile material for one atomic bomb.
Iran say it seeks industrial-scale enrichment only for electricity so it can export more of its oil wealth.
But it hid sensitive nuclear research and development from the IAEA until Iranian exiles blew the whistle in 2002.
It limits inspector movements, has stymied an IAEA probe into intelligence allegations of illicit atom bomb studies, and ceased giving design information on planned nuclear sites to the agency.
"There has been no movement on outstanding issues which need to be clarified to exclude the possibility of military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program," ElBaradei told the closed-door meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors.
(Editing by Richard Balmforth)