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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

With Eye on Washington, IAEA Prods Iran on Nukes

VIENNA, Austria -- The United Nations' atomic monitoring agency on Thursday urged Iran to allow continued inspections of its suspect facilities and desist from enriching nuclear fuel -- a key step in making atomic arms.

In a statement endorsed by the United States and other agency members, the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency said it expected Iran "to grant the agency all access deemed necessary by the agency" to defuse suspicions that Tehran was operating a nuclear weapons program.

In addition, the statement "encouraged Iran ... not to introduce nuclear material" at its Natanz enrichment plant pending the resolution of concerns about what it planned to do with any enriched fuel -- a part of nuclear warheads.

"Iran should continue to be fully transparent," said Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in announcing that the board had reached consensus on the statement after days of negotiations.

The statement was a compromise designed to satisfy both Iran, which has denied that it was planning to make nuclear weapons, and the United States, which accuses Tehran of such activity.

The U.S. government has accused Iran of building a uranium enrichment plant in the city of Natanz that could be used for atomic weapons production.

The United States had wanted the nuclear agency to declare Iran in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The matter could then be sent to the UN Security Council for action.

"We are happy," with the statement said Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's delegate. No U.S. comment was immediately available, but language expressing displeasure with Tehran's failure to come clean on nuclear activities was expected to please Washington.

The board shared concerns "at the number of Iran's past failures to report material, facilities and activities as required by its safeguards obligations," the statement said. "Noting the Iranian actions taken thus far to correct these failures, the board urged Iran promptly to rectify all safeguards problems ... and resolve questions that remain open."

The United States had demanded tough action to force Iran to open details of its nuclear program, insisting that it submit to more intrusive inspections after what it called a "deeply troubling" report from the UN nuclear agency.

The statement stopped short of demanding Iran accept such inspections but urged the country to look "positively" at signing and ratifying a protocol that would give the agency more powers.

From Moscow, Interfax cited Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yury Fedotov as saying Moscow was pleased that the agency opted against a harsh resolution.

In Tehran, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said Wednesday that his country was not trying to build nuclear weapons. He repeated that Iran was prepared to allow unfettered inspections by the nuclear watchdog agency but expected the international community to recognize Iran's right to acquire advanced peaceful nuclear technology.

Khatami spoke shortly before U.S. President George W. Bush underlined Washington's concerns, saying he and other world leaders will not tolerate nuclear weapons in Iran.