Iran not breaking nonproliferation commitments

VIENNA (AP) — The United States on Wednesday urged its fellow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board members to do their “duty” and vote in coming days to haul Iran before the UN Security Council for violating its nuclear treaty commitments.
Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who is in Vienna to campaign against the US-European motion, said his country would honour the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regardless of the board’s decision — despite its displeasure over the push to involve the Security Council.

Aghazadeh spoke to reporters after meeting with representatives from Russia, China and the Non-Aligned Movement — all of whom oppose the US-European motion, which is expected to be tabled at the 35-nation IAEA board meeting.

The chief US representative, meanwhile, lobbied board members to support the motion — formally a European Union initiative that is being orchestrated in close consultation with Washington and backed by Australia, Japan, Canada and others at the meeting.

“We agree with the European Union and a growing majority of the board that the time has come to report Iran’s [nuclear] noncompliance to the Security Council,” US delegation head Gregory Schulte told the meeting. “It is now time for the board to do our duty.” Meeting participants, who spoke anonymously because of the sensitive issues on the agenda at the closed conference, said the EU, Australia, Canada and Japan also demanded referral before the session was adjourned until Thursday.

A European Union draft resolution, made available to the Associated Press, demands Iran go before the Security Council for alleged “failures and breaches of its obligations to comply” with the NPT.

But it avoids any mention of UN sanctions in recognition that council members Russia and China would veto such a push. Instead, the draft proposes the council consider “making clear to Iran” that the crisis can “best be resolved” by cooperating with IAEA investigators.

Some EU countries were leaning towards delaying any vote until after this IAEA session, diplomats said, mainly because of resistance by Russia, which has veto power in the Security Council and is strategically and economically close to the EU. But diplomats said Wednesday that a vote appeared increasingly likely, and efforts were now focused on persuading Moscow to abstain instead of casting an opposing ballot.

Washington insists Iran has breached the NPT. Schulte argued that North Korea set an example for Iran, telling delegates that “the board complied with its obligation… to report North Korea’s noncompliance” after it dropped its commitment to that same treaty two years ago. But Iran insists its nuclear activities have not breached the treaty and Aghazadeh, the head of his country’s nuclear programme, told reporters in Vienna that “leaving the NPT is not on the agenda of Iran.” Asked about his meeting — part of Iran’s lobbying efforts — Aghazadeh said only: “I think this will have an impact on the outcome of the board.” Tehran insists its nuclear programme is solely for energy production, despite US and EU concerns that it can be used for nuclear weapons.

Tehran has warned that if referred to the Security Council, it could start uranium enrichment — a possible step towards making nuclear arms. On Tuesday, it said it could stop allowing unfettered IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities and programmes if the agency’s board involves the Security Council.

Aghazadeh repeated those warnings during Wednesday’s closed meeting, a diplomat familiar with the discussions said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the information is confidential.

Aghazadeh, in Moscow on Monday, said Iran would welcome other nations in its ongoing talks with European negotiators, and the new Iranian government wants to increase its cooperation with Russia, whose role in helping build a nuclear reactor in Iran has added to US concerns.

Experts warn Tehran’s menace real

PARIS (AFP) — International experts meeting in Paris have warned that the dangers of Iran’s nuclear programme must be taken seriously, but say the chances are small of a swift resolution of the standoff via the UN Security Council.

“These last weeks have convinced me that the Iranian regime is indeed seeking to move into nuclear arms,” said Frederic Encel, a specialist in geopolitics attending a seminar organised Tuesday evening by the London-based Gulf Intelligence Monitor research institute.

Earler Tuesday Teheran made its bluntest response yet to Western pressure over its atomic programme, warning that it could withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty and restrict oil sales to countries which it deems are on the wrong side in the dispute.

“This is an extremely important test for Europe,” said Encel. He said he was agreeably surprised by the determination of the troika (Germany, France and Britain) which has now asked the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to take Iran before the UN Security Council.

For Bruno Tertrais of the Foundation for Strategic Research, “certain elements in Iran’s nuclear programme only make sense if the country has an interest in the military option.”

“The Iranians want to have access to the entire nuclear cycle… Over the last 20 years they have hidden the presence of a large number of installations,” he said.

Mohammed Mohadessine, a leader of the exiled opposition group the National Council of Resistance of Iran, warned that “if it is not stopped, Teheran will have the bomb in two or three years.”

He called on the EU troika and the United States to “transmit the Iranian dossier to the Security Council and impose an oil and technological embargo. Such sanctions would not allow the regime to use the people’s wealth and western technology to acquire nuclear bombs. It would slow down the process.”

But Georges Le Guelte, a former secretary of the governing council of the IAEA, warned against “having any illusions over taking the issue to the Security Council” where Russia and China take a different line from the United States and the Europeans.

Even if Iran is taken before the council, “we shall be at the start not the end of a process,” he said.

“That is why we need to envisage a number of supplementary pressures, whether or not the Security Council tack succeeds,” said Francois Loncle, vice president of the foreign affairs committee of the French National Assembly.

Sanctions would be very hard to put in place, participants warned.

“What happened in Iraq does not exactly encourage the idea of a water-tight sanctions regime,” said Claude Goasguen, a French parliamentarian from the ruling UMP Party.

“We are well aware that oil companies are capable of trading with Iran outside the established norms. Barrels of oil bought on the sly by certain companies based in France would not help.

“These economic interests are considerable and encourage Iran to think that there is no united front among the democracies but merely economic interests that are open to certain accommodations,” Goasguen said.

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