INTERNATIONAL

Iran dismisses U.S. remarks

MANAMA Nov.13. Iran has reacted sharply to remarks by a top U.S. official who questioned the findings by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that said that it had found no evidence that Teheran was building atomic weapons. Iran was dismissive about observations by John Bolton, the top U.S. arms control official who said that he found the assessment of the IAEA, the international nuclear umpire, "impossible to believe."

"We cannot convince somebody who doesn't want to be convinced", Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Akbar Salehi told BBC radio.

He added that "Every logical person knows that Iran has never intended to pursue the path of weapons of mass destruction," The IAEA's widely leaked report said that, "to date there is no evidence that [Iran's] previously undeclared nuclear material and activities... were related to a nuclear weapons programme."

It however, added that, "given Iran's past pattern of concealment, it will take some time before the agency is able to conclude that Iran's nuclear programme is exclusively for peaceful purposes."

Mr. Bolton reportedly wants Iran's case taken to the U.N. Security Council, but that is possible only if the IAEA gives Iran a negative report about its nuclear activities.

In a meeting in September, the IAEA board of governors had asked Iran to declare details about its nuclear programme by an October 31 deadline.

Iran had complied with the IAEA demand, after an unprecedented diplomatic intervention by three key E.U. countries.

These three countries-France, U.K. and Germany, contrary to the approach adopted by the U.S., have wanted the Iranian nuclear question resolved through quiet diplomacy.

Incidentally, prior to Mr. Bolton's remarks, the Israeli Defence Minister, Shaul Mofaz, on a visit to Washington, said that he had raised Tel Aviv's concerns about Iran's nuclear programme with U.S. officials. In a speech he delivered during his stay, Mr. Mofaz said that, "concentrated efforts are needed to delay, to stop or to prevent the Iranian nuclear programme."

Meanwhile, Iran's President Mohammad Khatami described the IAEA report as `positive', but criticised portions of it. Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) quoted Mr. Khatami as saying that the IAEA exaggerated some aspects of the Iranian programme.

Mr. Khatami pointed out that Iran had used "very negligible quantity of plutonium" for "manufacturing pharmaceuticals and the IAEA experts themselves well know that such negligible amount of plutonium cannot be used for making bomb."

Mr. Khatami's remarks assume importance as Iran's production of plutonium have raised suspicions about its possible intent to build atomic weapons.

The Iranian President added that the report "took away the political leverage from the hands of the big powers and the anti-Iran circles to exploit Iran's nuclear programme."