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U.N. unit forms task force geared to monitor Iran’s nuclear activity

By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times –

The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog has created a special task force to monitor Iran’s compliance with prohibitions against developing nuclear weapons, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed Wednesday.

The agency took the rare step of forming a country-specific team of experts after technical talks between the U.N. agency and Tehran’s nuclear point man last week failed to secure access to Iranian facilities for IAEA inspectors. A high-level diplomatic forum involving the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany also collapsed earlier this year after three fruitless meetings with Iranian counterparts.

Chen Kane, a senior research associate on nonproliferation matters at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, said the task force will allow the IAEA to concentrate scarce investigative and intelligence resources on facilities where activity in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty is suspected.

“Certification of compliance is a very demanding task,” Kane said, noting that few IAEA officials have the qualifications needed to analyze Iran’s program. The agency is calling back several experts from retirement to join the effort, she said.

The IAEA didn’t publicly announce the task force but agency spokeswoman Gill Tudor confirmed it was part of “internal adjustments to meet the operational needs of the Safeguards Department.”

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, meanwhile, told leaders at the Nonaligned Movement summit in Tehran that his country won’t stop enriching uranium, as demanded by the diplomatic group. “We will not relinquish our inalienable rights to peaceful use of nuclear energy and uranium enrichment,” Ali Asghar Soltanieh said, Tehran Times reported.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in Tehran for the summit, asked the Iranian leadership to take “concrete steps” to address concerns that its nuclear program has a military dimension, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said. Ban also reportedly urged Iran to improve human rights and cooperate with the world body on peace efforts in Syria.

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