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VIENNA - The UN atomic agency's investigation of Iran will continue as Tehran has failed to provide sufficient information on crucial questions about uranium-enriching centrifuges and nuclear smuggling, the agency's chief said.
Mohamed ElBaradei, who was named Monday to a third-four year term as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, outlined the world's major proliferation hotspots in an address to a meeting in Vienna of the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors.
The 62-year-old Egyptian also said that Iran had not given access requested by the IAEA to the Lavizan and Parchin military sites, where diplomats say weaponization work is suspected.
Diplomats told AFP the agency had also requested but been denied access so far to interview key officials such as Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a brigadier general who has worked at Lavizan.
ElBaradei reiterated his agency's concerns about "the importance and urgency to finding a solution" in North Korea, which kicked IAEA inspectors out in 2002 and now claims to have made atom bombs.
European diplomats are preparing for a breakdown of their negotiations over Iran's nuclear programme in a sign of mounting pessimism following the election last week of conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad.
Although Britain, France and Germany still intend to keep their promise to put forward new compromise proposals to Iran by the beginning of August, some of the countries' diplomats now have little expectation that any deal will be accepted by Tehran.
The focus of efforts by the so-called "EU3" will be to win the ensuing "blame game" should the talks collapse. A priority will be to put forward proposals that go just far enough in meeting Tehran's concerns that they will allow Iran to be blamed if they are rejected.
The proposals are likely to include guarantees of nuclear fuel supply for Iran (if the technical details can be worked out); offers of technical assistance similar to a 1990s agreement between the US and North Korea; and encouragement of contacts between Iran and neighbouring countries in an attempt to defuse Tehran's security concerns.
Iran's new hardline president-elect, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, yesterday threw down a challenge to western leaders by vowing to resist international pressure to abandon the country's nuclear programme and branding Israel the source of instability in the Middle East.
The remarks, made at his first press conference since a landslide victory, will underline concerns in America, Israel, Britain and other European countries, where wrongfooted diplomats have been scrambling to come to terms with the consequences of his win.
The rise of Mr Ahmadinejad, the ultra-Islamist mayor of Tehran who has expressed a desire to recreate the atmosphere of the early days of Iran's 1979 revolution, has created alarm, not least because of fears it will be even harder to secure a diplomatic solution to the stand-off between Iran and the west over the country's nuclear programme.
The British government has been dismayed by the election result, seeing it as a setback for its efforts along with France and Germany to secure a compromise.
A Foreign Office source, in a rare resort to undiplomatic language, referred to Mr Ahmadinejad as a "headcase".
Tehran, Iran, Jun. 29 – Comments by French Foreign Minister Philippe Doust-Blazy on Iran’s nuclear program have been greeted with joy by a state-run website, which described them as “a retreat by France”.
“After the implicit retreat by the German Chancellor, who said new proposals must be offered to Iran, France has retreated from its hawkish position on the nuclear program”, said the website Baztab, which belongs to former Revolutionary Guards Commander Mohsen Rezai.
Rezai is currently the secretary general of the State Expediency Council and is widely tipped to receive an important portfolio in the incoming administration of President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“The French Foreign Minister has said that Iran’s non-military nuclear program must not be suspended and we must negotiate with the Iranians to receive their responses”, Baztab wrote.