U.S. eases stance on Iran nukes
Diplomats: U.S. willing to forego non-compliance reference
VIENNA, Austria, Nov. 21 The United States has dropped its demand the U.N. atomic watchdog declare Iran in violation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, despite its belief Tehran wants to build an atom bomb, Western diplomats said on Saturday.
AFTER TWO days of talks, the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agencys (IAEA) 35-member Board of Governors on Friday adjourned until Wednesday to give diplomats a chance to revise a French, German and British draft resolution condemning Irans 18-year concealment of sensitive nuclear research.
However, Western diplomats said informal talks continued on Saturday between Washington and the capitals of the European Unions big three to toughen up the trios proposal, two drafts of which the Americans rejected as too weak.
Talks are definitely ongoing, though much of the discussion is taking place in the capitals, a Western diplomat said.
Diplomats close to the talks said U.S. officials had foregone their demand for the resolution to contain an explicit reference to Irans past non-compliance with its NPT obligations and that Tehran be reported to the U.N. Security Council, which could choose to impose economic sanctions.
I think the U.S. will accept a resolution without an explicit reference to non-compliance, another diplomat said.
Diplomats told Reuters U.S. negotiators had abandoned early last week their demand that Iran be reported to the Council when it became apparent only four other board members Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand would support this.
In exchange, diplomats close to the talks said the United States, which is convinced Iran wants nuclear weapons, were now helping Britain, France and Germany revise the resolution to include a timetable to keep pressure on Iran to cooperate.
The French, British and Germans want to encourage Iran to continue with its stated policy of fully cooperating with the IAEA rather than punish it for past failures. Diplomats said Germany especially feared too harsh a resolution would backfire and cause Iran to stop cooperating with the United Nations.
IRAN-IRAQ WAR LIKELY STARTED PROGRAM
In October, Iran gave the IAEA what is said was a full and accurate declaration of its nuclear program and said it had no more nuclear secrets to disclose. Tehran admits covering up the full extent of its atomic program but denies wanting bombs.
But a senior Western diplomat said there was no question Iran had an atomic weapons program that most likely began during the fierce Iran-Iraq war that lasted from 1980 to 1988.
He added that there were suspicions the program still exists.
The United States harshly criticized the IAEA for saying in a recent report on Iran that it had no evidence suggesting Tehran had a secret weapons program.
U.S. Ambassador to the IAEA, Kenneth Brill, told the board on Friday the phrase no evidence was highly unfortunate in the light of revelations about Irans cover-up and secret experiments with plutonium reprocessing and uranium enrichment.
He said the IAEA should have used the words no proof instead.
Brill said the IAEAs wording had provoked expressions of disbelief that the institution charged with... scrutinizing nuclear proliferation risks was dismissing important facts.
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei reacted strongly, calling the U.S. statement disingenuous.
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General Assembly committee approves resolution expressing concern at Iran rights violations
San Francisco Chronicle
A U.N. General Assembly committee approved a resolution Friday expressing serious concern at human rights violations in Iran.
The Canadian-sponsored draft resolution was adopted by a vote of 73-49 with 50 abstentions. It now goes to the full General Assembly where a similar vote is expected.
The United States and most European countries supported the resolution while Islamic nations opposed it.
The resolution expresses serious concern at "the continued deterioration of the situation with regard to freedom of opinion and expression" and at the use of torture and other forms of cruel and inhuman punishment.
At the same time, it welcomed Iran's invitation to human rights groups in April 2002 to visit the country and the opening of a human rights dialogue with a number of countries.
Before the vote, Iran's representative said that a journalist with dual Iranian and Canadian citizenship had died in Iranian custody, and said it was regrettable. The government has taken all necessary measures to bring those responsible to justice and an inquiry is under way, the diplomat said.
An Iranian intelligence agent has been charged in the murder of photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, who died July 10 after suffering fatal head injuries during 77 hours of interrogation following her June 23 detention.
The Iranian diplomat stressed that the incident involving Kazemi was not enough to determine that there was no freedom of press in Iran.
Iranian hard-liners have jailed several dozen reformist journalists and political activists and closed about 100 pro-democracy publications during the past 31/2 years for criticizing the rule of the country's unelected hard-liners.
President Mohammad Khatami, who was elected on promises of introducing social and political reforms to Iran, has said newspaper closures and arrests of intellectuals and writers without trial or in closed, jury-less trials violated the constitution. Hard-liners have ignored his warnings. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/news/archive/2003/11/22/international0419EST0461.DTL