TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran wants to prevent its nuclear program from facing scrutiny before the U.N. Security Council, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said Wednesday -- the strongest indication yet that his government intends to meet an Oct. 31 deadline to prove it is not building atomic weapons.
But Kharrazi also reiterated Iran's long-standing position that it has the right to develop its nuclear program, which it says is meant for generating electricity, not for building arms.
The International Atomic Energy Agency imposed the deadline last month to pressure Iran to prove that its program is peaceful by signing a protocol to allow unfettered inspections of its sites. Failure to satisfy the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, could result in Iran's being referred to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.
Speaking on his return from New York, Kharrazi said Iran was working toward "providing the necessary clarifications and taking the appropriate decisions to prevent this matter from going before the Security Council."
But in comments aired later on state-run television, Kharrazi warned that it would be useless for Iran to allow unfettered inspections if its right to enrich uranium is not guaranteed.
"If we sign the protocol and yet the pressures over Iran remain and Iran is denied of its rights, definitely there is no place for such a thing," Kharrazi said.
Iran has protested the IAEA deadline as "politically motivated." It was imposed after lobbying from the United States, which strongly suspects Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is strictly for generating power as its oil reserves decline.
IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said Tuesday that Iran had done little to disprove suspicions it is making nuclear weapons and urged the Tehran government to immediately give full disclosure. An IAEA team is expected to arrive in Iran on Thursday.
Iran's representative to the IAEA, Ali Akbar Salehi, said on state-run television that two senior agency officials will first hold talks with Iranian leaders, and a team would arrive Saturday for "routine inspection of Iran's nuclear facilities."
The IAEA representatives would not be granted inspection rights beyond the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Iranian government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh told reporters.
"As far as the visit of the IAEA team is concerned, we will fulfill our obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. And we have no obligations other than the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty," Ramezanzadeh said.
Iran has previously allowed IAEA inspectors to visit non-nuclear sites, a privilege that goes beyond Iran's obligations under the global treaty.
"Any action by Iran beyond its obligations will depend on the talks with the IAEA team," Ramezanzadeh said. But he also said Iran would take "all measures to reach an agreement with the IAEA" on the protocol.
Hard-line elements in the Iranian establishment have urged the government to reject the Oct. 31 deadline and even to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which prohibits Iran from building nuclear weapons.
Traces of weapons-grade uranium have been found at two Iranian nuclear sites. Iran says in both cases the particles of highly enriched material came from contaminated equipment that it imported from another country, which it did not name.