Iran, IAEA Agree on Nuclear Timetable

The Associated Press
Tuesday, August 21, 2007; 8:01 PM

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran and the U.N. nuclear watchdog reached an agreement on a timetable to respond to questions over Tehran's controversial nuclear activities, both sides said Tuesday. The U.S. criticized the pact and urged the U.N. to consider boosting sanctions on Iran.

Though Iranian and IAEA officials did not elaborate to the media, the agreement was expected to provide for easier inspection of Iran's nuclear facilities by the IAEA as well as urge Tehran to provide detailed answers on remaining questions over its nuclear activities.

The agreement was announced at the end of two days of talks in Tehran between senior officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iranian nuclear negotiators.

"We have now in front of us an agreed working plan," IAEA chief of delegation Olli Heinonen told reporters. "We have a timeline for the implementation."

Senior Iranian nuclear negotiator Javad Vaeedi also said the two sides agreed on a framework to resolve the outstanding issues over Tehran's nuclear activities. "The talks produced very great and constructive progress," he said.

The two sides did not say what the lingering questions were, but it is believed that they include questions over Iran's past experiments with small amounts of plutonium.

The Bush administration called the agreement insufficient and urged the U.N. Security Council to move forward with more sanctions against Iran.

"Although we welcome this development and resolution of these issues is long overdue, it is insufficient and does not amount to compliance with Iran's UNSC (Security Council) obligations," Gonzalo Gallegos, a State Department spokesman, said in a statement released Tuesday night.

"Given Iran's failure to fulfill its UNSC requirement to immediately and verifiably suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, we believe the UNSC must move forward as soon as possible with additional sanctions."

The State Department said discussions were continuing with the permanent members of the security council on the sanctions "to make clear to the Iranian regime the costs for failing to comply with its nonproliferation obligations."

"Iran has an extensive history of promising cooperation and failing to follow through," Gallegos said. "Plans for cooperation are no substitution for actual cooperation and Iran's actions in the coming weeks will speak louder than its words."

The talks were seen as critical because they will be the basis for a progress report the IAEA chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, is scheduled to deliver before the agency's September meeting. Heinonen said he expected that report to be ready by next week and would include details from the talks.

Past IAEA reports expressed concerns that Tehran has secretly developed elements of a more sophisticated enrichment program than it has made public, that it might not have accounted for all the plutonium it processed in the past, and that its military might have been involved in enrichment. Tehran insists its nuclear program is strictly civilian-run.

Two previous rounds of talks, in Vienna and Tehran earlier this summer, appeared to have improved relations between Iran and the U.N. agency.

But Tuesday's agreement coincided with a warning from Iran's top nuclear negotiator to the Security Council that imposing new sanctions against Iran will make Tehran's cooperation with the IAEA "fruitless," state television reported.

Ali Larijani also accused the United States of seeking to undermine the progress achieved during talks between Iran and the IAEA in order to heighten tensions.

"If they take any illogical move (to impose new sanctions), the trend of Iran's cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency as well as the talks will become sterile," state television quoted Larijani as saying.

The U.S. and its allies fear Tehran is using its nuclear program as a cover to produce atomic weapons. Iran denies the charge, saying its program is solely geared toward generating electricity.

Iran has been agreeing to make new concessions in an apparent attempt to stave off a third round of sanctions. Last month, Tehran offered a rare concession and allowed IAEA inspectors to revisit a heavy-water reactor under construction that has been off-limits since April.

© 2007 The Associated Press