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IAEA expected to win member state backing for expanded Iran role

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano addresses the media after a board of governors meeting at the IAEA h
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano addresses the media after a board of governors meeting at the IAEA h

VIENNA (Reuters) - Several countries are expected to voice readiness on Friday to help pay for the U.N. atomic watchdog's expanded role in Iran to monitor a nuclear deal with six world powers, diplomats said, suggesting funding will not be a problem.

The 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency holds an extraordinary meeting on January 24 to discuss the IAEA's task to check that Iran meets its commitment to curb its nuclear program under the November 24 interim accord.

The IAEA said in a confidential report to member states last week that it estimated the increased workload as a result of the six-month deal - which took effect on Monday - would cost around 6 million euros.

Of that amount, "extrabudgetary voluntary contributions of about 5.5 million euros are needed", the report said.

Diplomats said they did not expect any difficulties in raising the money in view of the political importance in ending a decade-old international dispute over Iran's nuclear program.

"A number of countries have indicated that they can contribute to the financing," one Western diplomat said.

The IAEA already inspects Iranian nuclear facilities regularly to make sure there is no diversion of sensitive material for military purposes.

But the frequency of inspections will increase significantly as a result of the agreement between Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia, under which Tehran will limit its nuclear program in exchange for some easing of sanctions that are hurting its economy.

Apart from the big powers themselves, diplomats said some smaller Western countries had expressed willingness to help.

Chief IAEA inspector Tero Varjoranta this week said the agency's inspector presence in Iran would "roughly double".

Until now, it has had one to two teams of two inspectors each on the ground virtually every day of the year.

The agency's regular budget for 2014 budget stands at 344 million euros. Roughly a third is earmarked for nuclear safeguards inspections, in Iran and other countries.

Western states suspect that Iran has been seeking to develop the capability to make nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is a peaceful project to generate electricity.

(Reporting by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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