West seeks to pressure Iran at IAEA
VIENNA – Western countries will seek to turn the screw further on Iran at a meeting of UN atomic agency board of governors from Monday following the watchdog's latest damning report on Tehran's nuclear programme.
With EU foreign ministers talking Saturday in Cyprus about more sanctions, Britain, France and Germany were leading the charge for a clear signal from the International Atomic Energy Agency gathering, diplomats said.
"Iran has done anything but comply with its obligations," one senior Western official based in Vienna said. "The board needs to speak very clearly and in a unified way."
However, Russia and China, seen as softer on Iran, were resisting a tough-talking resolution that might include a referral of Iran to the UN Security Council.
An IAEA report on August 30 added to suspicions – not only in the West and Israel but elsewhere – that Iran is not telling the truth when it says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.
The agency said Iran had doubled since May its uranium enrichment centrifuges at its underground Fordo facility, and that a suspected clean-up at the Parchin military base would "significantly hamper" inspectors.
Enriched uranium can be used for nuclear power but also in a nuclear bomb. Because the IAEA cannot vouch that all Iran's activities are peaceful, multiple UN Security Council resolutions have called on Tehran to suspend enrichment.
The Security Council has also imposed four rounds of sanctions on Iran, while additional US and EU restrictions have also hit Tehran, leading to a halving of Iranian oil exports this year, the International Energy Agency says.
On Friday Canada broke off diplomatic relations with Iran.
The IAEA also wants Tehran to address evidence suggesting that Iran carried out nuclear weapons research at least until 2003 and possibly since, including at Parchin near Tehran in a "large explosives containment vessel."
Commercially available satellite imagery shown to IAEA member states at a briefing on Wednesday by chief inspector Herman Nackaerts showed what the agency's report called "extensive activities and resultant changes."
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, Moscow's representative in currently stalled talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany (the P5+1), last Thursday criticised Tehran.
He said that Iran's "right" to nuclear energy came with "obligations" and that "in our opinion, the Iranian side should cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency in a more active and intensive manner," Interfax reported.
But he also made a point of stressing that with IAEA inspectors constantly monitoring Iran's activities, the agency's report had made clear that there were "no signs of the Iranian nuclear programme having a military component."
Another Western diplomat in Vienna told AFP that he hoped that by passing "some sort of consensus response," the board might also help to persuade Israel that diplomacy, not military action, was worth pursuing.
"One would hope this would send a message to the outside world, including countries with more bellicose intentions towards Iran, that the IAEA board remains united in trying to keep up diplomatic pressure," the envoy said.AFP