Iran under pressure on nuclear program; Iranian officials say studying “positively” decision to sign additional protocol
International pressure mounted on Iran Monday to curtail its nuclear program, with both the EU and the chief of the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency joining Washington in appealing to Tehran to accept an intrusive inspections regime.
US officials said they are pushing for a vote to censure Iran at a meeting of the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency that began Monday in Vienna. If that fails to produce results, they said, the next step could be for the board to refer the dispute to the UN Security Council, possibly in the fall.
The White House says Iran is using its civilian nuclear program as a cover for secretly developing nuclear weapons, an assertion continuously denied by Tehran. American officials say their suspicions have been borne out by a report by IAEA experts that shows that Iran has embarked on a wide range of nuclear experiments, including uranium enrichment and the building of a heavy water reactor, that could lead to the development of a nuclear bomb.
If Iran is found to be in violation of its obligations under the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, a senior administration official said, then the controversy would likely go to the Security Council. "It will be up to the Security Council to act," the official said, according to Tuesday’s Washington Post. "Let's hope they will act."
Meanwhile, on Monday, European Union foreign ministers linked Iranian cooperation on nuclear inspections to progress in implementing a trade and cooperation agreement under negotiation between Europe and Iran.
Meeting in Luxembourg, the ministers issued a statement stressing "the need for Iran to answer timely, fully and adequately all questions raised regarding its nuclear program." They described the trade talks and the nuclear issue as "interdependent."
Speaking at the opening of the IAEA board meeting, Director General Mohamed El Baradei urged Tehran to sign an "additional protocol" that would give the agency greater access to Iranian nuclear sites and the ability to conduct short-notice inspections. He called, particularly, for the agency to be permitted to take environmental samples at the Kalaye Electric Co. in Tehran, which helped develop centrifuges for the Iranian nuclear program.
The environmental samples could be important in settling a dispute over whether Iran has failed to report a pilot program in enriching uranium, as required by the Nonproliferation Treaty. Iran has said that it used computer simulations rather than experiments with uranium gas to build hundreds of centrifuges, an assertion met with incredulity by many Western experts.
In the meantime, in New Delhi, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov also expressed the hope that Iran would sign the additional IAEA protocol and agree to intrusive inspections.
For their part, Iranian officials say they have still not decided whether to sign the additional protocol, although they are studying it "positively." (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)