October 13, 2003 at 3:24 PM CDT - Updated June 24 at 6:08 AM
The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency chief will visit Iran this week to help persuade Tehran to meet an Oct. 31 deadline to prove it is not producing atomic weapons, a diplomat said Monday.
The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said only that Mohamed ElBaradei had received a formal invitation. But a Western diplomat close to the agency told The Associated Press that ElBaradei had accepted and would head to Tehran on Thursday.
The IAEA has been pressing Iran to prove it is not producing nuclear weapons as the United States suspects. Iran has protested the Oct. 31 deadline and said its nuclear program is to generate electricity as its oil reserves decline.
Failure to satisfy the IAEA could result in Iran's being referred to the U.N. Security Council, which could impose sanctions. The IAEA board of governors will meet on Nov. 20 to assess the Iranians' compliance.
Iran is a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which bans the spread of nuclear weapons.
Pierre Goldschmidt, an IAEA deputy director general, and another top agency official held two days of talks in Tehran earlier this month. An IAEA inspection team is also in Tehran to carry out routine inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities.
A senior Iranian official said earlier this month that the IAEA representatives had reached "total agreement" with Iran on measures to prove the country's nuclear program is peaceful.
Iran has agreed to provide the IAEA with a list of imported equipment it contends had been contaminated.
In recent weeks, Iran has twice confirmed that particles of weapons-grade uranium had been found in separate places in the country. The government said the particles came from imported nuclear equipment that had been contaminated.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved.