Mohammed El Baradei is on a mission to Iran to check whether the country hascomplied with a UN Security Council request to suspend its nuclear research programme. It is the latest round of a political row with extremely high stakes.
El Baradei, the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, hopes a way forward can still be found through negotiation:
“I still believe that the time is right for a political solution. I believe the only way to resolve the outstanding issues is through negotiations and I hope that the conditions will be created for Iran and all concerned parties to go back to the negotiating table,” said El Baradei. The Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad says his country is now a member of the international nuclear club.
Iran has always maintained its nuclear programme is designed to produce energy, which it claims it has the right to do under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Iranian experts say uranium has been enriched to a level of 3.5 percent and that the country only possesses a few dozen centrifuges. Thousands more would be needed to produce weapons-grade uranium – but Iran has indicated it wants to expand its programme.
The United States and the EU are pressing for sanctions to be imposed if Iran does not toe the line.
But there is division within the Security Council over the issue, with Russia and China against the move.