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Senior IAEA official to visit Iran

Questions over Iran's nuclear program as watchdog agency returns to the country.

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With a senior International Atomic Energy Agency official (IAEA) slated to visit Tehran on Wednesday, the organization's director, Mohamed ElBaradei, has said the trip could lead to a "major breakthrough." Yet on the eve of the IAEA's arrival in Iran, the US media carried contradictory accounts of the status of the country's nuclear efforts.

Olli Heinonen, the IAEA's No. 2, arrives in Tehran on Wednesday for two days of meetings in which he expects Iranian officials to present information that will help settle the question of whether the country's nuclear program is simply to produce energy, as Iran asserts, or if it's also moving toward building a nuclear bomb, Reuters reports.

[T]he United States and EU allies wonder whether Iran's offer of transparency is more than a time-buying gambit designed to avert further sanctions against what Western powers suspect is a bomb making program in disguise.
The watchdog wants explanations for traces of highly enriched – bomb-grade – uranium found on some equipment.
It also wants to know more about experiments with plutonium, the status of research into an advanced centrifuge able to enrich uranium three times as fast as the model Iran now uses, and documents showing how to cast uranium metal for a bomb core.

On Monday, Mr. ElBaradei said Iran has slowed down the rate at which it's adding uranium enrichment capacity at its nuclear site in Natanz, the Associated Press reports.

While expressing hope that Iran might go as far as totally freezing enrichment — as demanded by the U.N. Security Council — ElBaradei told reporters that there had been a "marked slowdown" in centrifuges on line and in using them to turn out enriched uranium.

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