EU Urges for more Inspections on Iran N. Facilities

A03588535.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- The European Union has asked Iran to bring its nuclear facilities under West’s further scrutiny by joining a treaty that would let the US and other nations Tehran is at odds with review the details of its sites and programs.

The call was contained in a speech delivered Monday by Slovenia, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, to a closed conference reviewing the safety records of some of the more than 60 nations that have adopted the treaty.

While countries that have ratified the convention cannot be forced to divulge information on their nuclear programs, the treaty does give them a chance to review each others’ programs and ask questions linked to fellow signatories’ nuclear work.

Iran hopes to start up its Russian-built Bushehr reactor later this year.

Singling out Iran as a country building a nuclear power plant, the EU called “on Iran to accede to the convention.”

The EU claim comes as Israel which is the only possessor of nuclear arsenals in the Middle East region and a key US ally has not ratified the convention and keeps its top-secret nuclear plants away from international inspections.

Iran says under the Non-Proliferation Treaty it is entitled to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has recently confirmed that all outstanding issues in Iran’s past nuclear activities have been resolved.

Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is sponsoring the meeting, said he could not comment because “I am not familiar with the contents of the speech.”

But the diplomat said that – despite pressure from Moscow – there had been no indication that Tehran was looking to join the convention, which would allow the United States and others accusing Tehran of trying to make nuclear arms a window into the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

Besides building the Bushehr plant for Iran, Russia has also provided the nuclear fuel for the plant, completing its shipments of uranium to the southern city early this year.

Iran has said the plant will begin operating in the summer of 2008, producing half its 1,000-megawatt capacity of electricity.

The US initially opposed Russia’s contract for building the Bushehr reactor and supplying it with fuel, but later softened its position as Iran agreed to return spent nuclear fuel from the reactor to Russia to ensure it doesn’t extract plutonium from it to make atomic bombs.

The United States and Russia have said the supply of nuclear fuel means Iran has no need to continue its own uranium enrichment program – a process needed for providing fuel for a reactor.

Iran has insisted it would continue enriching uranium because it needed to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it was building in the southwestern town of Darkhovin

The UN Security Council has so far imposed three rounds of sanctions on Iran for refusing the Council’s demand to give up its right of uranium enrichment, a process needed for producing fuel for Iran’s under-construction power plants.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany met in Shanghai on Wednesday to discuss whether to sweeten incentives they had offered Iran in 2006 to persuade it to give up its nuclear rights.

Iran, which says it wants nuclear technology to generate electricity, has so far ruled out halting or limiting its nuclear work in exchange for trade and other incentives, and says it will only negotiate with the UN nuclear watchdog.

The US is at loggerheads with Iran over the independent and home-grown nature of Tehran’s nuclear technology, which gives the Islamic Republic the potential to turn into a world power and a role model for other third-world countries. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.

Washington’s push for additional UN penalties contradicted the recent report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran’s programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and similar reports by the IAEA head – one in November and the other one in February – which praised Iran’s truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities and announced settlement of outstanding issues with Tehran, any effort to impose further sanctions on Iran seemed to be completely irrational.

The February report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised Iran’s cooperation in clearing up all of the past questions over its nuclear program, vindicating Iran’s nuclear program and leaving no justification for any new UN sanctions.

Tehran says it never worked on atomic weapons and wants to enrich uranium merely for civilian purposes, including generation of electricity, a claim substantiated by the NIE and IAEA reports.

Not only many Iranian officials, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but also many other world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports saying Iran had increased cooperation with the agency.

US President George W. Bush, who finished a tour of the Middle East in winter has called on his Arab allies to unite against Iran.

But hosting officials of the regional nations dismissed Bush’s allegations, describing Tehran as a good friend of their countries.

Bush’s attempt to rally international pressure against Iran has lost steam due to the growing international vigilance, specially following the latest IAEA and US intelligence reports.

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