Thursday, February 02, 2006

World Nuclear Panel Meets Today on Iran; Possible Concession Is in the Works

The New York Times:

VIENNA, Feb. 1 — Britain, France and Germany introduced a draft resolution on Wednesday asking the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency to refer Iran's nuclear case to the United Nations Security Council.

The proposed resolution can be modified when it is discussed by the decision-making board in an emergency session here on Thursday.

In its current form, the resolution recalls Iran's "many failures and breaches of its obligations" under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and "the absence of confidence that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes resulting from the history of concealment of Iran's nuclear activities."

It asks the agency's director, Mohamed ElBaradei, to report to the Security Council "on the steps required from Iran" and asks the board to submit all agency reports and resolutions about the nature of Iran's nuclear activities to the Council.

But in an important concession to Russia and China, which initially resisted any Security Council involvement, the resolution delayed for another month any action in the Council concerning Iran.

The Russians also succeeded in making sure that the resolution did not include the word noncompliance, which they argued had important legal consequences that would automatically require Iran's case to be referred to the Security Council under the agency's statutes.

But a senior State Department official maintained that the question was academic. With or without the word, the proposed measure would require the nuclear agency to report to the Security Council all relevant resolutions and findings previously approved, which would include a resolution passed last fall holding Iran in noncompliance.

The leading powers closed ranks, seemingly in intentionally public fashion. President Bush spoke to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia by telephone, thanking him for his offer to enrich uranium for Iran on Russian soil, and the two leaders agreed that it was "important to stay in close contact" on the Iran nuclear issue, said the White House spokesman, Scott McLellan.

Russia's deputy foreign minister, Sergei I. Kislyak, said that "our friendly advice to our Iranian colleagues" is that they must cooperate.

In London, Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary, said he had told the Iranian foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, that Iran should end its defiance. "He really needs to see this agreed position by the leaders of the international community not as a threat but as an opportunity for Iran to put itself back on track" for meeting obligations "which it entered in to," Mr. Straw said on BBC radio.

Sometimes the Europeans seem to be talking tougher than the Americans. In an interview published Wednesday in Le Parisien, for example, France's foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, said, "The complete range of sanctions is conceivable."

In Washington on Wednesday evening, one of the chief architects of the Bush administration's Iran strategy, Robert G. Joseph, the under secretary of state for arms control and international security, detailed the administration's case against Iran, charging that it was seeking to combine its nuclear ambitions with a fleet of missiles that "can hold hostage cities of our friends in the Middle East and Europe."

Mr. Joseph used a speech to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee to focus attention on documents discovered by the nuclear agency's inspectors in Iran that show how to machine-cut enriched uranium into hemispheres, a shape suitable for detonation. Dismissing Iran's claim that the documents were not part of its nuclear program, Mr. Joseph said, "We know of no application for such hemispheres other than nuclear weapons."

He also described "why we cannot accept a nuclear-armed Iran," in terms that had echoes of the speeches administration officials gave three years ago when they were building a case against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. "A nuclear-armed Iran could embolden the leadership in Tehran to advance its aggressive ambitions in and outside the region, both directly and through the terrorists it supports," he said.

He said the country, once armed, "would represent a direct threat to U.S. forces and allies in the region," and "could provide the fuse for further proliferation." He also said that it "would represent an existential threat to the state of Israel."

"Finally, Iran is at the nexus of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism," he argued. "If Iran has fissile material or nuclear weapons, the likelihood of their transfer to a third party would increase."

Bush administration officials have said repeatedly that they want a go-slow approach, avoiding sanctions that might enrage the Iranian people, like banning Iran from playing in the World Cup soccer championships, for example.

The United States, Russia and China did not co-sponsor the resolution, although Gregory L. Schulte, the American ambassador to the nuclear agency, told reporters that the resolution "has the support" of the three big nuclear powers. A Russian diplomat said his country would reluctantly accept the draft resolution.

The three European countries sponsoring the resolution made an agreement with Iran in November 2004 that froze most of its nuclear activities. It was Iran's violation of that voluntary accord last month by reopening its uranium enrichment plant at Natanz that prompted the call for the emergency session here.

The United States and the Europeans expressed confidence that they would receive the majority vote needed to pass the resolution. Unlike the Security Council, the atomic energy agency allows no vetoes, and abstentions are not counted.

With a monthlong reprieve from Security Council action, the official Iranian position is that Tehran wants to keep talking with the Europeans and the Russians to resolve the mounting nuclear crisis.

But Iranian officials inside and outside the country have insisted that they have no intention of closing the Natanz plant again, as demanded by the agency, the five permanent members of the Security Council, Germany and other countries.

In what might be called megaphone diplomacy, Iranian officials in various capitals repeated the threat that any action involving the Security Council would force Iran to carry out a law suspending all "voluntary measures" with the agency.

That would bar the agency from conducting inspections on short notice and would block it from certain sites, like Iran's uranium mines and heavy water reactor program, Ali Asghar Soltaniyeh, Iran's ambassador to the agency, said here.

Mr. Soltaniyeh, whose experience in nuclear matters predates the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran, also confirmed that his country would resume its program to build 50,000 centrifuges eventually at Natanz and begin full-scale production of "tons" of enriched uranium there.

In Tehran, Ali Larijani, the chief Iranian nuclear negotiator, echoed Mr. Soltaniyeh's threats. "They should expect us to take reciprocal action," he said. "There is no winning for them this game."

Mr. Larijani emphasized that Iran would honor its commitments under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but not those made outside the pact.

His most animated comments concerned reports that the nuclear agency's inspectors had identified a secretive Green Salt Project, which worked on uranium processing, high explosives and missile warhead design. The agency based its findings at least in part on a document that it said provided information on the design of a missile "re-entry vehicle."

"One point five is really the number of pages," he said, referring to the document. "If any of you could make a bomb out of one and a half pages, I will make gold out of you. Is this reasonable?"

Wednesday was the 27th anniversary of the return to Iran of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini after the fall of the country's monarchy and the triumph of his revolution, a day devoted to emotional speeches on the greatness of the Islamic Republic.

In a speech to thousands of people at the nuclear plant at Bushehr on the Persian Gulf, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad branded President Bush a criminal stained with "the blood of other nations" who should be put on trial.

Iran correctly proclaims its right under its treaty obligations to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes, and Mr. Ahmadinejad, addressing what he called "the fake superpowers," said, "The Iranian people will continue until they master nuclear energy, which is their right."

Reporting for this article was contributed by Sarah Lyall from London, Michael Slackman from Tehran, and David E. Sanger and Steven R. Weisman from Washington.

1 Comments:

At 6:49 PM, Anonymous geoff seago said...

I think Iran should be allowed to develop nuclear power and even nuclear weapons then reach the same magnamous position of every other country that has nuclear weapons and never use them aggressively (except of course the united states which used them when the true horrors of nukes was still unknown). As by imposing restrictions on there development we are not allowing Iran to evolve and are fuelling the fire of the fundamentalists. Iran would never nuke Isreal as it would envolve the killing of thousand of palestinians and make the holy land a nuclear wasteland. Lets face it Iran must feel pretty threatened right now with an American invasion on their doorstep

 

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