Iran Offers to Resolve Issues with IAEA

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Iran has invited International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials to visit Tehran in order to "develop an action plan for resolving outstanding issues" related to the country's past nuclear activities, agency spokesperson Melissa Fleming announced June 25. "The IAEA intends to send a team as early as practicable," she added. Iran's invitation came as permanent members of the UN Security Council began work on a new resolution that would impose sanctions on Iran.

Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council and Tehran's lead nuclear negotiator, issued the invitation the previous evening during a meeting with IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei. Larijani and ElBaradei also had discussed the plan during a June 22 meeting.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mohammad-Ali Hosseini told reporters June 24 that Iran could reach an agreement with the IAEA within two months.

Iran has a gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program and is constructing a heavy water-moderated nuclear reactor. Iran says these programs are for peaceful purposes, but both also could be used to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Unresolved issues related to these programs have been a persistent source of controversy. Since its investigation began in 2002, the IAEA has discovered that Tehran engaged in secret nuclear activities, some of which violated its safeguards agreement with the agency. The government has provided explanations for some of these issues, but the agency says that several others remain unresolved. (See ACT, March 2006.)

IAEA safeguards agreements, which are required under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), allow the agency to monitor NPT states-parties' declared civilian nuclear activities.

Partly in response to Iran's failure to clarify the outstanding nuclear issues, the Security Council has imposed sanctions on Iran in two previous resolutions, the most recent of which was adopted in March.

According to a May report from ElBaradei to the IAEA Board of Governors, the outstanding issues include "information relevant to the assembly of centrifuges, the manufacture of centrifuge components... and research and development of centrifuges or enrichment techniques."

Most recently, ElBaradei told the IAEA board June 11 that the agency is unable "to make any progress in its efforts to resolve [the] outstanding issues," adding that "it is incumbent on Iran to work urgently" with the IAEA so that it can "provide assurance regarding the exclusively peaceful nature of all of Iran's nuclear activities."

Iran has previously promised to cooperate with the IAEA's investigation, but nothing has come of those pledges. For example, an April 2006 Iranian letter said that Tehran was "prepared to resolve the remaining outstanding issues" with the agency and pledged to provide a timetable for compliance within the next three weeks. (See ACX June 2006.)

More recently, Iran reiterated in a February letter to the IAEA its willingness to cooperate with the investigation. But this offer appeared to retain a previous condition that the Security Council end its involvement with the Iranian nuclear issue. (See ACT, March 2007.)

Meanwhile, Larijani met June 23 with the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, in Lisbon in an effort to restart negotiations with Germany and the five permanent members of the Security Council. …