ElBaradei Likely to Report on Iran Thursday

A03437857.jpgThe International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei is likely to present his report on Iran’s latest cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog agency on Thursday. The report by the UN nuclear watchdog chief will include the results of four rounds of talks between Iranian and IAEA officials as well as the views and studies conducted by the IAEA experts, including deputy Director General Ollie Heinonen, on Iran’s past nuclear activities.

A diplomatic source privy to the nuclear talks between Iran and the West said earlier on Friday that the results of the two sides’ discussions about Iran’s P1 and P2 centrifuges are among the main topics to be raised in ElBaradei’s report.

The Group 5+1 (the five permanent UN Security Council members – the US, Russia, China, Britain and France – plus Germany) and IAEA’s 35-nation board of governors are scheduled to have a joint meeting to review ElBaradei’s report in a week’s time.

The crucial UN watchdog report is likely to say that Iran has shown full cooperation with the IAEA’s inquiry into past nuclear activities.

The timing and toughness of any further UN sanctions against Iran will hinge on the IAEA report and a parallel report by the EU’s top diplomat on recent dialogue with Tehran.

The IAEA report is likely to show Iran’s positive steps towards full transparency about its nuclear program, diplomats accredited to the agency said.

This could spur veto-holding Russia and China to persist in delaying harsh sanctions, arguing for more time for the IAEA process to bear fruit and against steps to isolate Tehran which they regard as a slippery slope to war.

Iran said on November 3 it gave the IAEA all information needed to remove ambiguities about the first major issue on the list, work to develop centrifuges which enrich uranium, and there would be no more discussions about it.

Iran’s deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi on Tuesday said the IAEA “is satisfied with Iran’s … vast, transparent and confidence-building actions” and the report should reflect this.

ElBaradei told the governing board in September he aimed to get the main issues settled by the end of this year.

The board meets again next week and will examine the report.

Iran and the IAEA ended four rounds of technical talks in Tehran two weeks ago.

Iran’s deputy chief nuclear negotiator, Javad Vaeedi, earlier said the two sides were satisfied with the course of their talks, and termed them constructive.

In all the four meetings, the IAEA team was headed by deputy IAEA head Olli Heinonen and the Iranian side by Vaeedi, who is deputy to Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili.

In the four rounds of talks, Heinonen was accompanied by IAEA director for foreign relations and policy making, IAEA regional director for safeguards, and IAEA’s legal advisor while Vaeedi was assisted by deputy chief of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Mohammad Saeedi and Iran’s permanent envoy to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh.

The inclusion of technical, legal and political officials in the IAEA delegation reveals that the two sides strive to solve their problems from different aspects.

While West has always sought to politicize Iran’s nuclear issue, Tehran insists that questions about its nuclear programs and activities are technical and legal in nature and should, thus, be verified by the IAEA and not by the UN Security Council.

The last round of talks was focused on P1 and P2 centrifuges. Iran’s centrifuges are believed to be mainly the P1 type, but Tehran has been seeking to operate the more advanced P2 types for enrichment purposes.

Vaeedi said Iran replied to all outstanding IAEA questions, and there would be no more technical talks until the next meeting of the IAEA board of governors.

Iran and the IAEA agreed in August on a plan of action that aims to remove all technical ambiguities by the IAEA over Iran’s nuclear projects, and at the same time prepare the ground for political talks between Jalili and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

Olli Heinonen’s visit comes a day after IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said he had not received “any information” that Tehran was seeking nuclear weapons, as claimed by the United States.

Talks on Iran’s centrifuge machines started on September 25 and 26, but the two sides refrained from revealing the contents of their meetings.

The talks are considered as a further step by Iran to build more confidence after it explained in written about the origin of uranium traces on its centrifuges last month.

Tehran also allowed IAEA inspectors in August to revisit a heavy-water reactor under construction outside Arak, central Iran.

The visit to Arak nuclear reactor was arranged as a result of a recent agreement between Iran and the UN nuclear watchdog agency.

The talks between Iran and the IAEA followed a groundbreaking agreement gained during a June meeting between Iran’s former nuclear negotiator and Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Secretary Ali Larijani and IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei in Vienna.

According to Iran-IAEA agreement, the UN nuclear watchdog raised all its questions on the basis of a premeditated schedule, and Iran had to provide the required answers according to the same time-table.

Once they are through with the aforementioned action plan, the two sides have agreed to find a proper way to resolve the differences about the implementation of the nuclear safeguards in Iran.

The plan has vexed the US by allowing Iran to answer questions one by one according to a timeline while leaving untouched its uranium-enrichment program.

It has also wrong-footed a US-led push to rein in Iran by eroding European support for, and stiffening Russian resistance to, tougher UN sanctions. Iran won the reprieve by threatening to cut off relations with the IAEA if pressure intensifies.

Talks between Iran and the IAEA are continued under such conditions that France has voiced strong support for the US efforts to impose a third set of sanctions on Iran.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has praised Iran’s cooperation with the agency as a significant step.

Iran has vowed to carry on its uranium enrichment, insisting its program is peaceful and geared solely toward producing electricity. The United States and key Western allies accuse Tehran of covertly trying to build a nuclear weapon, but they have never presented any corroborative document or evidence to substantiate their allegations. Tehran denies the charges vehemently.

The UN Security Council has already slapped two sets of sanctions, mostly economic and mainly targeting Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.

Iran has rejected both resolutions as illegal, saying it won’t give up its Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) right to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel.

In mid-September, the six countries involved in talks to persuade Iran to drop uranium enrichment delayed a vote on a new set of sanctions against the Islamic Republic until November. The vote was postponed pending reports from the IAEA director general and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

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