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US must address Iran security concerns-UN watchdog

Written by: Staff

THE HAGUE, May 12 (Reuters) Iran has legitimate security concerns that the United States must address if the crisis over Tehran's nuclear programme is to be resolved, the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said today.

''This is primarily a regional security issue,'' Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) he told a debate in The Hague.

''Iran is surrounded by countries that have nuclear weapons, Russia has nuclear weapons, Pakistan has nuclear weapons, Israel has nuclear weapons, Iraq has used chemical weapons against them. There is a sense of insecurity,'' he said.

''When you talk about the Iranian issue, the only solution is a package that should inter alia include security issues.'' Washington and its European allies have been seeking a U.N.

Security Council resolution that would oblige Iran to halt all uranium enrichment work or face possible sanctions.

But Russia and China have resisted the move and Washington agreed this week to let Europeans first devise a package of benefits for Iran in return for cooperation, putting back a decision on a possible resolution for about two weeks.

Tehran says it only wants to produce low-grade enriched uranium to use in atomic power reactors, not the highly enriched uranium needed to make bombs.

ElBaradei said only full engagement by the United States could address Iran's security concerns, as well as other grievances that have accumulated over the last 50 years.

''I'm happy to see that the U.S. is becoming more and more engaged because ... a final solution to Iran needs the full engagement of the U.S.,'' he said.

''When you are talking about security, there is only one country that can talk to Iran and that is the U.S., it's not Europe. Europe can talk economics, it can talk trade ... but it cannot talk about hard security issues.'' ElBaradei said while Iran still had to clarify a number of issues with the IAEA, inspectors had not seen any ''significant'' nuclear material being undeclared or diverted into weapons.

''We haven't seen a clear and present danger. We haven't seen an imminent threat,'' he said, adding he agreed with suggestions by U.S. officials that Iran was five to 10 years from a nuclear weapon.


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