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Iran nuke chief to attend IAEA meeting

TEHRAN, Sept. 13 (UPI) -- Iran's nuclear power chief says he will attend an International Atomic Energy Agency meeting in Vienna after offering to reduce tensions with the West.

Fereidoon Abbasi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran since February, announced Sunday he would personally lead the Iranian delegation at the IAEA's 59th General Conference, scheduled to begin Sept. 19 in the Austrian capital.

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The announcement came a week after Abbasi unveiled a counterproposal to address the series of sanctions slapped on Tehran by the United Nations' atomic energy watchdog, which accuses Iran of not complying with calls for transparency over its nuclear program.

The European Union, the United States and other Western powers accuse Iran of trying to develop a nuclear weapon, which Tehran maintains its uranium enrichment program is solely for civilian applications.

Abbasi last week offered to allow IAEA inspectors "full supervision" of the country's nuclear activities for the next five years but on the condition that the mounting sanctions against Iran are lifted, The New York Times reported.

"We proposed that the agency keep Iran's nuclear program and activities under full supervision for five years, provided that sanctions against Iran are lifted," he told the semi-official Iranian Student News Agency.

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The Iranian counteroffer -- its first in two years -- came after an IAEA report this month indicated that new information has made inspectors "increasingly concerned" that Iran is continuing to secretly develop a nuclear weapon that can be mounted atop a missile, which Abbasi dismissed as "fabricated and baseless."

The offer was met with skepticism from EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton, who said Tehran needs to commit to IAEA demands to suspend its nuclear program before any sanctions are lifted.

Abbasi was well-known to U.S., European and Israeli intelligence agencies before being appointed as the country's nuclear energy chief, the Times reported. Coming from Shahid Beheshti University, he is believed to be working closely on research into how to create nuclear weapons.

Abbasi, who narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in November, was designated by the United Nations as a scientist involved in Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile activities and thus has been subject travel limitations, the newspaper said.

An aide to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Sunday called on the IAEA to "act independently" in its dealings with Iran -- a reference to the Tehran's claims it is doing the bidding of a nuclear-armed Israel.

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Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi was quoted by IRNA as saying, "IAEA reports on Iran's nuclear dossier should be prepared independently and in an atmosphere free from political pressures," adding they "should be realistic and factual."

Last week's meeting of the U.N. Security Council's Iran sanctions committee brought fresh warnings from the United States and EU member nations that Tehran remains under intense scrutiny.

"The eyes of the international community are currently diverted elsewhere, focusing on Syria, Libya -- and Iran may believe that it can profit from this situation," French Charge d'Affaires Martin Briens told reporters. "It has increased the number of centrifuges and provocative statements but we are not misled by this."

"Iran refuses to address outstanding issues related to its nuclear program," added U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. "The director general reports that Iran is continuing enrichment and heavy water-related activities in defiance of both this council and the IAEA board of governors.

"Iran still refuses to respond substantively to information regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program."

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