Iran Nuclear NewsIAEA chief says Iran atom issue at 'critical phase'

IAEA chief says Iran atom issue at ‘critical phase’

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Reuters: U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei said on Thursday the standoff over Iran’s nuclear work was at a “critical phase” but it was not a crisis and Tehran still had a chance to regain international trust. VIENNA, Feb 2 (Reuters) – U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei said on Thursday the standoff over Iran’s nuclear work was at a “critical phase” but it was not a crisis and Tehran still had a chance to regain international trust.

ElBaradei was speaking as the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation governing board met to weigh reporting Tehran to the U.N. Security Council over concerns it is trying to build atomic bombs under cover of a civilian nuclear energy programme.

He told reporters the IAEA meeting was about pressing Iran to resolve doubts about its nuclear intentions before a conclusive report he is to make to a regular March 6 board.

“We are reaching a critical phase but it is not a crisis situation. It’s about confidence-building and it is not about an imminent threat,” he said,

“All who have spoken on the issue, even those who are supporting Security Council reporting, are making it very clear that the Security Council is not asked at this stage to take any action (that could lead to sanctions), definitely not before I submit my report in March. All of them are saying that this is simply a continuation of diplomacy,” ElBaradei said.

“I think what the board is trying to do is to send a very clear message to Iran but also provide a window of opportunity. The clear message: that Iran needs to take more confidence-building measures.”

But he said Iran should also understand that its move last month to resume limited enrichment of uranium, a key fuel for nuclear power reactors or bombs, “is not conducive” to restoring international trust in its atomic ambitions.

Iran concealed nuclear activity from the IAEA for 18 years until 2003 and has frequently delayed or evaded inquiries since, IAEA officials and Western diplomats say.

The Islamic Republic, whose president has called for Israel to be “wiped off the map”, says it wants nuclear energy only for civilian power reactors. The IAEA has found no hard evidence to the contrary but inquiries continue.

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