|VOICE OF AMERICA|
SLUG: 2-324753 Non-Proliferation conference (L-only)
TITLE=UN/NON-PROLIFERATION CONFERENCE (L-O)
HEADLINE: US Criticizes UN Nuclear Watchdog Agency
INTRO: The United States has blasted the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency for failing to report Iran's longstanding non-compliance with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The criticism came on the first working day of a treaty review conference at U.N. headquarters, where VOA's Peter Heinlein picks up the story.
TEXT: U.S. State Department official Andrew Semmel Thursday accused the International Atomic Energy Agency of failing to act on its own findings that Iran was violating the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
Speaking to a conference on strengthening the treaty, Mr. Semmel noted that IAEA Director Mohammed ElBaradei had reported "damning findings" against Iran in 2003, and again in 2004. He urged the IAEA board of governors to meet its treaty obligation by immediately referring the case to the U.N. Security Council.
The Iranian government still has not provided a complete picture of key aspects of its nuclear program and continues to restrict access by IAEA inspectors. Unfortunately, more than 18 months later, the Board of Governors has yet to fulfill its legal responsibility to report Iran's serious and longstanding safeguards noncompliance to the Security Council. We think the time is long overdue.
The U.S. official's comment came on the first working day of a conference held every five years to review the treaty that is considered the cornerstone of non-proliferation efforts. The month-long gathering had been stalled for nearly three of its four-week session because of agenda disputes, prompting predictions that it will end in failure.
Conference President Sergio de Queiroz Duarte of Brazil has expressed hope that the final outcome can be rescued as delegates race against a May 27th deadline. But Algerian Ambassador Abdallah Baali, who chaired the last conference five years ago, says the volume of work, and continuing disagreements, make failure almost certain.
We have wasted a lot of time. It's a huge waste of time and energy and good will. We have not been able so far to address the substantive issues. We got stuck in the procedure issues, and we have too little time left to make any kind of progress, so obviously the conference has already failed.
Conference delegates were buoyed Thursday by news that U.S. and North Korean diplomats held talks in New York last week. Washington initiated the contact, and the White House said U.S. diplomats had urged their North Korean counterparts to return to stalled six-party nuclear negotiations.
North Korea is the only one of the 189 NPT member states not attending the twice-a-decade conference. Pyongyang withdrew from the treaty in 2003 after admitting it had a secret nuclear weapons program. Three other countries, India, Pakistan and Israel, have not signed the treaty. (Signed)
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