Tuesday, September 20, 2005

IAEA Chief Urges More Diplomacy on Iran

Yahoo News:

By GEORGE JAHN, Associated Press Writer

Mon Sep 19,11:30 PM ET

The chief U.N. atomic inspector on Monday called for talks to replace international confrontation over Iran's nuclear activities, while the United States and European Union pressed efforts to haul Tehran before the U.N. Security Council.

A resolution drafted by U.S. and European diplomats asks International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei to report to the Security Council "Iran's many failures and breaches of its obligations to comply" with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The confidential document, shared in part late Monday with The Associated Press, is meant for the IAEA's 35 board-member nations to vote on this week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she expected the council to take up the matter.

"I'm quite certain that at some point in time Iran is going to be referred to the Security Council, particularly if Iran continues to demonstrate that it is not prepared to give the international community assurances that it is not going to try to build a nuclear weapons program under cover of civil nuclear power," Rice told reporters Monday at the United Nations.

Preparing the draft had been on hold the last few days to give Iran a chance to deflect the Security Council threat by offering sufficient concessions — and after that failed to happen, to try to get Russia and China on board.

European Union diplomats and a U.S. official said both of those countries remained opposed to referral to the Security Council, despite strong lobbying by the Americans and Europeans. But they told AP that the West would likely force the issue to a vote regardless.

"The difficulty remains with Russia and China and some of the Third World countries," said one of the diplomats.

The U.S. official predicted the vote would be close. Like the Europeans, he demanded anonymity as a condition for discussing the sensitive behind-the-scenes maneuvering.

At the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the Iran nuclear standoff had reached a "very difficult moment," but added that it "may not be possible" to resolve the matter at the IAEA board level.

The divisions dampened optimism generated by North Korea's decision to dismantle nuclear weapons and its atomic facilities and to allow IAEA inspectors to return in exchange for energy aid, economic cooperation and security assurances.

On Tuesday, North Korea cast doubt on its commitment to the agreement by saying it would not dismantle its nuclear weapons program until the United States first provides a light-water atomic energy reactor.

While the impact of the North's latest statement wasn't immediately clear, the United States and other nations have resisted the idea of giving North Korea such a reactor.

Earlier, ElBaradei, the chief nuclear inspector, had said he hoped to have his inspectors in place "the earlier ... the better," and indirectly suggested Korea could serve as example for Iran.

He criticized both Tehran's intransigence and U.S.-European calls for Security Council involvement as examples of "confrontations and political brinkmanship," adding: "I very much hope that this week all the parties ... create the necessary conditions to go back to the negotiating table."

As with North Korea, "there are security issues, there are nuclear issues" that must be negotiated to reduce tensions over Iran's nuclear ambitions, ElBaradei said in unusually blunt comments.

Others cautioned against drawing too close a parallel.

"The North Koreans are scared of the United States" said former U.N. nuclear inspector David Albright of the motives driving Pyongyang to agree to abandon nuclear weapons in exchange for security pledges from Washington.

But in the case of Iran, which had been negotiating with European nations, "if a deal is made with the European Union, you still haven't dealt with the United States and Israel, the prime security threats," said Albright, who now heads the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington.

Washington and the EU started to lobby jointly for Security Council referral last month, after Iran effectively walked away from talks with Germany, Britain and France and resumed uranium conversion. The process of conversion is a precursor to enrichment, which can make nuclear fuel or weapons-grade uranium.

Additionally, North Korea needed a deal to secure international economic aid and stave off starvation among its population, whereas Iran is hurting much less from the effects of international sanctions, which mostly affect the transfer of sensitive technologies, he said.

Diplomats accredited to the IAEA, meanwhile, suggested Iran may have another card up its sleeve, saying Tehran may announce it is ready to grant agency experts access to high-ranking military officials or military sites.

The agency has been trying to determine if gaps in Iranian reporting on more than 18 years of clandestine nuclear activity first revealed three years ago are attempts to cover up military involvement in what Iran insists is a purely civilian program to generate power. Establishing such involvement would bolster arguments by the United States and its allies that Iran's program is a cover for trying to make nuclear arms.

The IAEA has been rebuffed in attempts to revisit Parchin, the site of alleged experiments linked to nuclear weapons, and to inspect Lavizan-Shian, the possible site for equipment that can be used both for peaceful and nuclear weapons-related purposes. The agency also has been denied access to senior military officials. Any such concessions by Iran could increase the number of countries opposed to Security Council referral and leave the Europeans and the Americans in the minority. ___ On the Net: http://www.iaea.org


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