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IN THE NEWS - June 21, 2003: Iran's Nuclear Program - 2003-06-20

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program, In the News.

This week, the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency met in Vienna to discuss a new report about Iran’s nuclear program. I-A-E-A Director General Mohamed ElBaradei wrote the report. It says Iran has failed to declare the importing, processing and storing of nuclear materials. Iran had promised to do so.

A statement Thursday by the thirty-five-member board called on Iran to fully cooperate and permit inspections of all its nuclear centers.

The Bush administration wanted a stronger resolution by the I-A-E-A to condemn Iran’s actions. The administration accuses Iran of secretly working to develop nuclear weapons. American officials say they believe Iran is using a civilian nuclear energy program as a cover for a weapons program.

The administration had led a diplomatic campaign to pressure Iran to agree to stronger inspections of its nuclear program. American I-A-E-A representative Kenneth Brill accused Iran of violating treaty rules and delaying nuclear inspections.

Britain and Canada also criticized Iran for failing to declare its nuclear activities. But Non-Aligned countries, led by Malaysia, said Iran had been cooperative in its dealings with the I-A-E-A.

An Iranian opposition group reported last year about the existence of two new nuclear production centers in Iran. The United States says Iran’s failure to provide that information shows it could have something to hide.

Iran says its nuclear program is part of a peaceful energy program. It says the I-A-E-A report was influenced by the United States for political reasons. The Iranian representative to the I-A-E-A, Ali Salehi, listed failures by many other countries to meet conditions for nuclear inspections.

Reports say most of what Iran is doing does not violate the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The treaty was signed in nineteen-seventy by every country except Pakistan, India and Israel. The treaty permits governments to have almost any nuclear technology. But they must agree to use it for peaceful purposes and to place it under international observation.

President Bush said this week that other countries must make it clear to Iran that they will not accept the building of a nuclear weapon. He said a nuclear-armed Iran would be dangerous.

On Friday, Russia's energy minister said Russia will not send nuclear fuel to Iran until Iran's nuclear program is fully under I-A-E-A supervision.

Another issue causing tension between the Bush administration and Iran is recent Iranian anti-government protests. These began last week and led to clashes between the demonstrators and government supporters. The demonstrators oppose Islamic rule and are demanding greater freedom. The protests have eased during the past few days.

American officials expressed support for the protesters. Iran accused the United States of interfering.

This VOA Special English program was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Steve Ember.