Iran: IAEA Board Urges Iran To Halt Nuclear Work, Requests Agency Report
By Robert McMahon
The board of the UN's nuclear agency has called on Iran to stop the uranium conversion work it resumed earlier this week, expressing "serious concern." In a new resolution adopted in Vienna, the board also requested a report from the agency's chief on Iran's response to the resolution and compliance with Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations. Iran rejected the measure and some nonproliferation experts differed on its usefulness.
An IAEA spokeswoman, Melissa Fleming, said in Vienna yesterday that all members of the board of governors were in agreement on the language of the resolution text. "The resolution on Iran was just adopted without a vote, by consensus. So, full consensus. All 35 members of the board agreed to the language of the resolution text."
The resolution did not mention a possible referral of the matter to the UN Security Council, which Washington has said must remain an option. It also repeatedly referred to Iran’s suspension of uranium conversion as a “voluntary, non-legally binding confidence-building measure.”
But U.S. President George W. Bush told reporters the resolution affirmed the international concern about Iran’s nuclear program: “Our strategy is to work with the EU-3 -- France and Great Britain and Germany -- so the Iranians hear a common voice speaking to them about their nuclear weapons ambitions.”
The resolution requests that IAEA Director Muhammad el-Baradei provide a comprehensive report on the implementation of Iran's Non-Proliferation Treaty Safeguards Agreement, as well as the new resolution, by 3 September.
Reuters quoted EU diplomats as saying if Iran did not comply with the resolution they would ask the board to refer the matter to the Security Council in September.
Iran's chief IAEA delegate Sirus Nasseri dismissed the resolution as “absurd.”
Iran says it plans only peaceful uses of nuclear power, but the IAEA has not yet resolved all issues about its nuclear program, which was conducted for many years in secrecy.
Nasseri told reporters in Vienna yesterday that Iran’s uranium-conversion activities in Isfahan are under IAEA monitoring and pose no threat. "[The IAEA's resolution] does a disservice to the agency and the safeguards system as a whole," he said. "That, we regret. The operation in Isfahan will continue under full-scope safeguards."
Iran is allowed to process and enrich uranium for peaceful purposes under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But the three EU negotiating states want Iran to ensure its peaceful intentions by halting nuclear work and accepting a package of economic and security incentives. Iran rejected the latest offer earlier this week.
Henry Sokolski, who directs the independent Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, criticized the resolution as not firm enough. He told Radio Farda the measure’s insistence on Iran’s voluntary suspension of enrichment-related activities sent the wrong message to Tehran.
“It's unnecessary, and not helpful in framing what is still a fundamental problem about compliance," Sokolski said. "Not only to this freeze, which was admittedly a political understanding with European Union countries, but compliance with the IAEA safeguards agreement, which is a treaty-like obligation which they still at the IAEA cannot be sure Iran has complied with.”
But another nonproliferation expert, Miriam Rajkumar of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Radio Farda that Iran’s moves this week do not merit a very tough resolution. She said it was important for the resolution not to harden negotiating positions.
“They’re not breaking any legal obligations," she said. "There are cameras in place at this spot in Isfahan that actually is watching what is going on, so the likelihood of diversion is very low. [The uranium conversion] doesn’t in any way hasten the onslaught of nuclear weapons. I mean, it’s a long way from that. So I think that’s why the [resolution’s] language is such that they are not wanting to push Iran in a corner.”
For now, the EU-3 and Iran have left open the option of more diplomacy, which is likely to accelerate as the UN summit in mid-September nears. Iran's new president, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, is expected to attend.
Yesterday, U.S. President Bush said Ahmadinejad would likely be granted a U.S. visa to attend the meeting in New York, despite U.S. concerns that he played a leading role in the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
(Radio Farda’s Fatemeh Aman contributed to this report.)
Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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