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UN Watchdog Examines Iran's Nuclear Activity

Questions concerning Iran's past nuclear activities and Syria's alleged secret nuclear program are expected to dominate a week-long meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency board that opened in Vienna on Monday.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has argued for Iran's right to nuclear power

The 35-member IAEA Board of Governors is set to discuss Iran's lack of cooperation in explaining a set of past studies, which the international nuclear watchdog says could be related to an effort to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran strongly denies that it ever intended to use nuclear technology for military purposes. The IAEA has been investigating the Islamic republic's contested nuclear drive for five years.

Reports that Iran made nuclear warheads were "totally baseless" and "not in line with our national interests," Hossein Salami, a general in Iran's revolutionary guard, was quoted as saying by Iranian news agency IRNA on Sunday.

IAEA Director General Mohamed El Baradei wrote in his latest report on Iran that his inspectors had not found evidence of actual weapons manufacturing, but that he could not guarantee Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government was not conducting secret nuclear activities.

Several IAEA reports have indicated towards an Iranian atom bomb effort, including that of a blueprint for a nuclear warhead obtained by Tehran, and work on the modification of Shahab-3 missiles which points to nuclear use.

Powers expected to put on pressure

US President George W. Bush

The US, under President Bush, has been the driving force behind UN sanctions on Iran

As Iran has neither heeded the call of the United Nations Security Council to answer outstanding questions nor halted its uranium enrichment program, Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, as well as Germany, were pushed to meet Friday in Washington to discuss a possible new Security Council resolution.

While the US, the European Union and others are expected to make strong statements at the IAEA board meeting condemning Iran's position, a resolution in Vienna is unlikely, according to diplomats.

Iran is already under three sets of Security Council sanctions for refusing to freeze uranium enrichment.

Ahmadinejad casts Europe as anti-Islam

The world powers cannot stop Iran's nuclear progress, Iranian state media on Monday quoted Ahmadinejad as saying upon his arrival in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly.

"The talks made by some (countries) will be no hurdle in the course of progress of the Iranian nation," the Iranian president told state television network IRIB in New York.

"Iran is a powerful country and stands for peace and humanity and has constantly moved within legal boundaries. Iran has been and will be successful in going its way."

Mohamed El Baradei Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency

IAEA boss Mohamed ElBaradei, left, cannot disconfirm secret Iranian nuclear plans

In the face of the strong anti-nuclear armament feeling -- which some would interpret as an anti-Iran feeling -- set to dominate the IAEA meeting, Iran has summoned the French ambassador over what Tehran labels an increase of anti-Islamic sentiment in Europe.

A Sunday report on Iranian state television said an official in Iran's foreign ministry expressed deep concern over anti-Islamic sentiment during the meeting with French ambassador Bernard Poletti.

An "anti-Islamification" conference was held over the weekend by a right-wing German nationalist group that opposes the building of a large new mosque in the city of Cologne.

Syrian nuclear activities under the microscope

On Monday, El Baradei is also set to give board members an interim report on Syria, which is suspected of having secretly built a nuclear reactor, possibly with North Korean help.

IAEA inspectors took samples at the alleged site in June, which was bombed by Israeli warplanes last year. Diplomats said last week that results were still outstanding and no final assessment would be possible unless Syria gives the IAEA access to further sites.

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