No extension of deadline for Iran, nuclear chief says

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The Independent Online

Iran cannot expect an extension to a 31 October deadline to prove it does not have a secret atomic weapons programme, the UN nuclear watchdog chief said yesterday.

"I cannot accept that by the end of the month we will be in a position ... [where] we believe we have not got all the information we require," the International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei said.

Diplomats have said Iran might ask for the deadline to be extended. Mr ElBaradei said Tehran was still not acting as quickly as the IAEA wanted, although it had been more co-operative recently.

"We still need more information," he said. "Now is the time to come forward with a full and comprehensive declaration of all they have done. This is a must." The organisation also demanded Iran sign additional protocols of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty by the same date.

Mr ElBaradei was speaking en route to Iran where he will hold talks with senior officials in a one-day visit. UN nuclear inspectors have already visited an Iranian military site, amid growing tensions over the country's alleged nuclear bomb programme, and they hope to examine several other sites within days.

UN officials identified the visited site as Kolahdouz, near the Iranian capital. Iran has denied more allegations made in London by the National Resistance Council of Iran. The group said on Tuesday that centrifuges were being manufactured in an undeclared plant near Isfahan.

The group has been responsible for several attacks in Iran since before the revolution but its information on the nuclear programme has proved accurate before.

Under the IAEA resolution, Iran must disclose details of all its nuclear facilities and equipment. It must also immediately suspend uranium enrichment. But Iran insists enrichment is allowed under the non-proliferation treaty.

President Mohammad Khatami said on Tuesday the country would give full co-operation to the IAEA but insisted Iran would not sign new protocols unless its conditions were met. These include a commitment not to demand access to non-nuclear military facilities. Ali Rabiei, a Khatami adviser, was reported saying talks on the new protocols would start next week.

The government sees the IAEA demands as part of a campaign of US pressure. After the war in Iraq, it is concerned the US wants to use the more intrusive inspections to open up Iran's military secrets. Conservatives and reformists believe nuclear power is a national right. They point to the nuclear arsenals held by Pakistan and Israel as evidence they are not being treated even-handedly.