updated 3/15/2004 5:32:03 PM ET 2004-03-15T22:32:03

Nuclear inspectors will return to Iran late this month after being temporarily barred by the Tehran government, the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said Monday.

Tehran over the weekend prohibited inspectors hours after the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation governing board adopted a resolution deploring recent discoveries of uranium enrichment equipment and other suspicious activities that Iran had failed to reveal. Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Hasan Rowhani, had described the IAEA resolution as “unfair and deceitful.”

“I’m glad that they have reviewed and reversed that decision in a very short period of time, and we will be back in Iran on the 27th of this month,” said Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the IAEA.

He said the ban was “always regarded as a temporary expression of their dissatisfaction with the resolution.”

“But I think they have come to realize that the only option, the best option, is for them to cooperate with the IAEA, with the international community, if they want to clear their file, if they want to show their program is for peaceful purposes,” ElBaradei told reporters after a Capitol Hill meeting with Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind.

Lugar said the pair talked about nonproliferation work being pursued with North Korea, Pakistan and other nations.

ElBaradei plans to meet with officials of the State and Energy departments on Tuesday and President Bush and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday.

Ball in Iran's court
Iran says its nuclear activities are for generating electricity. The United States suspects that Tehran is undertaking a secret program to build nuclear weapons and had called for even harsher language in the IAEA resolution.

Now, ElBaradei said, he looks forward to “close cooperation with Iran, full transparency ... the ball is clearly in Iran’s court for the next couple of months.”

He also said he hoped Libya’s moves to dismantle its weapons programs will serve as a model for other nations. And he noted that Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan had sent similar technologies to North Korea as well.

“We know that some of the enrichment equipment, according to Mr. A.Q. Kahn, has been also transferred to North Korea. Unfortunately we are not in North Korea today to verify that,” ElBaradei said.

The father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, Khan admitted this year that he sold such equipment to Libya, Iran and North Korea.

“I discussed it with Senator Lugar — I would like to see the agency going back to North Korea as early as possible,” he said.

Libya has agreed to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction programs, a move ElBaradei said he hoped would be a model for other nations.

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