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Iran pledges to stop building centrifuges

/ Source: The Associated Press

Iran will stop building and assembling centrifuges for uranium enrichment this week, the country's nuclear chief said Tuesday after a meeting with the chief U.N. weapons inspector.

Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said the country would "voluntarily" suspend its centrifuge work starting April 9.

Iran "is interested as quickly as possible to bring this case to a close," he said.

Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, welcomed the announcement and said a new team of inspectors would come to Tehran on April 12 to verify that all uranium enrichment activities had been completely halted.

ElBaradei arrived in Tehran earlier Tuesday to meet with Iran's president and top Iranian officials in an effort to press the regime for greater openness with its suspect nuclear programs.

"We agreed that we need to accelerate the process of cooperation," ElBaradei said. "Mr. Aghazadeh committed that Iran will do everything possible to accelerate the process of resolving the outstanding issues. I hope during the course of my visit that we can develop an action plan that can have a timeline."

Aghazadeh said he expected Iran's nuclear dossier would be closed by June, at the next meeting of the IAEA's board of governors.

"We will do our best (for) ... our relationship with the agency to be normalized," he said.

Iran had said on March 29 that it had stopped building centrifuges for uranium enrichment, though it was not expected to dispose of the centrifuges it already possessed.

Iran suspended uranium enrichment last year under strong international pressure over the aims and dimensions of its nuclear program. But it continued to build centrifuges, which are used in enrichment, despite criticism that activity violated the spirit of its pledge to cease enrichment.