The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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US nuke claim baseless, says Khatami

Tehran, Dec. 18 (Reuters): President Mohammad Khatami today blasted as baseless US accusations that Iran was building two nuclear sites of a type that could be used for developing nuclear weapons, Irna news agency reported.

He was responding to remarks by US officials last week alleging that two nuclear sites in central Iran were of a type that could be used for manufacturing nuclear warheads.

Iran, labelled by Washington as part of an “axis of evil” bent on developing weapons of mass destruction, denied the accusation and said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had been told about the plants and was free to inspect them.

“America’s claim is totally baseless. Our aim is not building atomic weapons,” the official agency quoted Khatami as saying.

A signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Iran said last week it was determined to meet its booming electricity demand with nuclear power despite US concerns the technology could be used for military purposes.

Iran’s first nuclear power plant, being built with Russian help near the southwestern port city Bushehr, is due to come on stream at the end of next year or early 2004, despite heavy US lobbying of Moscow to block construction.

Iran is studying feasibility of building a second 1,000 MW nuclear plant, IRNA said.

The Vienna-based IAEA said earlier that it was aware of Iran’s nuclear power programme and planned to visit the country in February to inspect all facilities currently under construction.

Khatami said Iran’s nuclear activities had always been carried out under the IAEA’s supervision.

The US and Iran have been enemies since radical students seized the US embassy in Tehran shortly after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution and held 52 hostages for 444 days.

In Vienna today, the IAEA said it would send a team to Iran on February 25 to take a first look at the two sites.

It said its director general and a team of technical experts would visit the sites to develop a monitoring programme.

“This is an initial visit as we try to start a process of visits,” IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said.

Iran’sparliament approved a Bill banning the torture of prisoners after an earlier version was rejected by a hardline constitutional watchdog, parliamentarians said.

The draft law got the go-ahead from deputies as EU officials arrived in Tehran for talks on human rights issues with the government of the Islamic republic.

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