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IAEA Inspector Dead In Iran Car Crash

By NASSER KARIMI 05/08/12 02:33 PM ET AP

TEHRAN, Iran — A U.N. nuclear inspector from South Korea was killed and a colleague was injured in a car crash Tuesday near a reactor site in central Iran, state media and the nuclear watchdog agency said.

Iran's state TV said the South Korean inspector was thrown from of the car. He was not wearing a seat belt, the report said, quoting police. The two inspectors were riding in the backseat of the car.

The TV showed video of the other inspector in a hospital bed, not seriously injured. It said the driver, who lost control of the car, was also slightly injured.

State TV showed video of the heavily damaged vehicle.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement it was in touch with the inspectors' families and Iranian authorities.

The IAEA did not name the inspector killed in the crash, but Iran's official IRNA news agency identified as Seo Ok-Seok from South Korea.

IRNA said the inspectors' car overturned near a heavy water reactor being built in Khondab, about 250 kilometers (150 miles) southwest of Tehran.

Iran has said the reactor – part of the Arak complex – will be used to produce isotopes for medical and industrial uses. The U.S. and others suspect that spent fuel from the reactors could be reprocessed into plutonium for a nuclear warhead. Iran denies it seeks nuclear weapons.

The incident comes ahead of a new round of technical discussions between Tehran and the IAEA to be held in Vienna Monday and Tuesday. Higher-level negotiations also are planned later this month in Baghdad between envoys from Iran and six world powers, including the United States.

Inspectors from the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency regularly visit Iran's nuclear facilities, which include a Russian-built energy reactor and uranium enrichment laboratories.

The stops often receive less attention than the high-level IAEA teams sent to Iran to discuss access to other sites, such as the Parchin military base near Tehran, where the U.N. suspects nuclear-related work has taken place. Iran says Parchin is a conventional military base.

Iran's nuclear agency issued a statement offering condolences to the nuclear watchdog as well as the victim's family.

With some 26,000 casualties a year, Iran has one the world's highest per capita rates of road deaths. The rate is blamed on driver disregard of traffic rules, lack of safety development of roads and inadequate emergency services.

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Associated Press writer George Jahn in Vienna contributed to this report.

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Filed by Clare Richardson  |