ElBaradei: Obama’s Openness may Help Settlement of Iran N. Issue

A01918644.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- The head of the UN nuclear watchdog said on Tuesday US President-elect Barack Obama’s stated readiness for dialogue with Iran without preconditions could help resolve the nuclear standoff between the West and Tehran.

The United States and its Western allies accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, while they have never presented any corroborative document to substantiate their allegations. Iran denies the charges and insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Tehran stresses that the country has always pursued a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry.

An International Atomic Energy Agency investigation into intelligence allegations that Iran’s program is not wholly for generating electricity, has stalled in disputes over the scope of inquiries.

Iran has called the alleged weaponization studies as fake and fabricated.

“If there is a direct dialogue between the United States and Iran, I think Iran will be more forthcoming with the agency,” IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei said.

“(A) political opening will also convince Iran to work with us to solve remaining technical issues,” he told a news conference in Prague after meeting Czech Foreign Affairs Minister Karel Schwarzenberg.

“That political component of the (Iran) issue requires in my view a direct dialogue with Iran and that’s why I am very encouraged by President-elect Obama’s statement that he is ready to engage Iran in a direct dialogue without preconditions.

“I have a lot of hope if that is a new policy,” said ElBaradei, who has argued against isolating Iran and in favor of a broader deal between it and the United States addressing security and trade issues he sees as underpinning the dispute.

Iran is under three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions for turning down West’s calls to give up its right of uranium enrichment, saying the demand is politically tainted and illogical.

Iran has so far ruled out halting or limiting its nuclear work in exchange for trade and other incentives.

Obama had said he wanted tougher UN sanctions on Iran if it kept defying the Council but, unlike outgoing President George W. Bush, has said dialogue without preconditions with foes was just as important to resolving the stand-off.

Iranian officials have said Obama’s victory showed Americans wanted a fundamental change from the policies of Bush, who labeled Iran part of an “axis of evil.”

“We are able to verify all their declared activities, we are able to verify their enrichment program, which is a good thing. But we are still not able to move forward on clarifying some of the outstanding issues related to alleged studies that could have some linkage to a possible military dimension.”

“There is a lot of concern about Iran, not today but about Iran in future… whether once they develop the technology, what are they going to use it for, whether they will go for nuclear weapons,” said ElBaradei.

“That is the concern shared by the Security Council.”

This is while a recent report said the International Atomic Energy Agency may possess documents rejecting a link between Iran’s nuclear work and the “alleged” studies of weaponization.

“The new evidence of possible fraud has increased pressure within the IAEA secretariat to distance the agency from the laptop documents,” a source close to the International Atomic Energy Agency told Raw Story.

According to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the new evidence confirms Iran’s assertion that the US-presented documents may have been ‘fabricated’.

In 2004, US intelligence presented the UN nuclear watchdog with a series of documents, which the IAEA refers to as ‘alleged studies’. The documents are claimed to be proof of an Iranian research program conducted in line with a secret nuclear weapons program.

Most of the documents, provided by an unknown source, are electronic files allegedly gathered from an Iranian researcher’s laptop – none of which bears ‘confidential’ or ‘top secret’ seals.

Washington has based much of its efforts to rally international support sanctions against Tehran on the documents.

US investigative journalist and analyst Gareth Porter says there is an argument among the UN nuclear watchdog members about the authenticity of the documents.

Porter, in an article on the issue, cites discrepancies between the documents and a larger collection of documentation presented to the IAEA by Iran in response to the agency’s request for an explanation.

Some of these discrepancies include handwritten notes on a letter, referring to the redesigning of a missile reentry vehicle, which do not appear in the version of documents provided by Iran.

“This was confirmed by the director of the IAEA Safeguards Department, Olli Heinonen, during a February briefing for member states,” writes Porter.

Heinonen referred to ‘correspondence’ related to Kimia Maadan- an Iranian company which the documents were allegedly stolen from- as ‘identical to that provided by Iran, with the addition of handwritten notes.’

According to the Raw Story source, some IAEA officials began pressuring the agency to admit the documents were likely to be unauthentic after a copy of the Iranian letter was received which did not contain any handwritten notes.

“There was an effort to point out that the agency isn’t in a position to authenticate the documents,” said the Vienna-based source.

The source added that the next IAEA report, scheduled for a mid-November release, would include the agency’s first response to a confidential 117-page Iranian assessment of the laptop documents.

The Islamic Republic says that it considers its nuclear case closed as it has come clean of IAEA’s questions and suspicions about its past nuclear activities.

Political observers believe that the United States has remained at loggerheads with Iran mainly 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 contradicts a 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 seems 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.

The UN nuclear watchdog has so far carried out at least 14 surprise inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites so far, but found nothing to support West’s allegations.

Also in his latest report to the 35-nation Board of Governors, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei confirmed “the non-diversion” of nuclear material in Iran and added that the agency had found no “components of a nuclear weapon” or “related nuclear physics studies” in the country.

The IAEA report confirmed that Iran has managed to enrich uranium-235 to a level “less than 5 percent”. Such a rate is consistent with the construction of a nuclear power plant. Nuclear arms production, meanwhile, requires an enrichment level of above 90 percent.

The Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog continues snap inspections of Iranian nuclear sites and has reported that all “declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities.”

Mohammed ElBaradei, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, recently said that Iran remains far from acquiring capabilities to develop nuclear weapons as it is still lacking the key components to produce an atomic weapon.

“They do not have even the nuclear material, the raw unenriched uranium to develop one nuclear weapon if they decide to do so,” said the head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency.

Many world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure against Iran unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports, stressing that Tehran’s case should be normalized and returned to the UN nuclear watchdog due to the Islamic Republic’s increased cooperation with the agency.

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