Iran Says Cooperation With IAEA Open to Debate

TEHRAN - Iran's Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that Tehran was debating whether to continue cooperation with the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog which last week gave Iran seven weeks to prove it had no secret atomic weapons program.

Iran insists it has no nuclear arms ambitions and accuses Washington of seeking a pretext to invade the Islamic Republic as it had its neighbours Afghanistan and Iraq. "The nature of our cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is under consideration," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told a weekly news conference.

"The relevant authorities are discussing it and our decision will be made public in future. We haven't made a concrete decision on how to continue cooperation with the IAEA," he said.

The IAEA has accused Tehran of failing to come clean about its nuclear program. Iran says its nuclear facilities are solely geared to generating electricity.

A resolution passed by the IAEA's governing board on Friday called on Iran to clear up lingering doubts by October 31 and suspend all uranium enrichment activities for the time being.

The resolution implied that should the IAEA still have concerns about Iran's nuclear activities in November, it could declare Tehran in breach of international obligations and report it to the U.N. Security Council for possible economic sanctions.

In an interview with the German weekly Der Spiegel, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA Ali Akbar Salehi warned that Tehran could follow North Korea's lead by pulling out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Asked on Monday if Iran would pull out of the NPT, Asefi reiterated that cooperation with the IAEA was under review.

Diplomats in Tehran said Iran's decision-making process was complicated by divisions in the ruling establishment. While the reformist government led by President Mohammed Khatami has been pushing for greater cooperation with the IAEA, powerful hardliners close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have argued the opposite.

"The IAEA board's tough statement may have given hardliners greater ammunition to argue that cooperation with the IAEA merely invites greater pressure on the country," one said.