Analysis: Splits in Iran on nuke ultimatum
By MODHER AMIN
TEHRAN, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Heated differences have emerged within Iranian political circles over how to react to the recent resolution from the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, giving Tehran until the end of October to come clean on its nuclear programs.
Despite unanimity among the reformist and right-wing figures and bodies in seeing the deadline as an affront to Iran's national dignity, there appears to be no agreement on how to react.
However, the reaction ranges from a call on the country's officialdom to abide by the resolution to advocating a pullout from the non-proliferation treaty altogether.
The biggest of the reformist factions, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, which dominates Parliament and is headed by President Mohammad Khatami's brother, Mohammad Reza, was quite explicit in uttering its views that Iran should sign up to the additional protocol to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, allowing the IAEA to conduct snap, short-notice inspections.
Apart from calling on Iran to sign the protocol, last Friday's resolution also urged the Islamic republic to provide a full declaration of all imported material and components relevant to uranium enrichment, as well as to halt all related activities.
A leaked report last month revealed the IAEA's unease at finding traces of highly enriched uranium at the Natanz facility in central Iran, 180 miles south of Tehran. Iran blamed the finding on contaminated machinery purchased abroad.
Also the disclosure that the program of uranium enrichment went back to 1985 and not to 1997 as previously stated, added to the suspicions that the theocratic establishment had been pursuing a secret nuclear weapons program for nearly two decades.
The Islamic republic, however, fiercely rejects the charges, insisting that its nuclear program is designed to meet a growing demand for electricity and for peaceful research.
Failure to satisfy the IAEA could lead to referring the case to the U.N. Security Council when the nuclear watchdog's 35-nation governing board convenes on Nov. 20. The outcome, in that case, could be the imposition of international sanctions on Tehran.
In a strong statement, the Participation Front said accepting the protocol would serve the country's national interests rather than harming them as the compliance would help improve Iran's international image.
The influential, and one of the few organized, right-wing groupings, the Motalefeh Eslami or Islamic Coalition, has urged the government not to "bow to the IAEA's requests" and to pull out of the NPT, assuming a stance similar to North Korea's.
The hard-line Jomhuri-ye Eslami newspaper sees only one way to resist what it calls "U.S. pressure."
"The political and illegal treatment of Iran's peaceful nuclear program by America and European countries has proven the bitter truth that, in today's world, the only way for countries wishing to maintain their independence to survive is to become powerful," the paper said.
Iran's powerful former president and the head of the influential Expediency Council, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has termed the resolution as part of "the U.S. campaign against Iran's peaceful nuclear activities," which, he said "is nothing except declaring war on Islam."
He accused the United States of trying to deprive the Islamic world of "up-to-date and sophisticated science and technological know-how."
"If Iran were not an Islamic government, the U.S. would never try to stop its nuclear activities," he said, referring possibly to some voices in Iran saying that, in 1960s, the United States encouraged the shah to develop nuclear energy.
The plan for the present reactor, being built with the help of Russians in the southern port of Bushehr, dates back to early 1970s. The German Siemens accomplished most of the civil work before the 1979 Islamic revolution.
President Khatami's reaction to the controversy has been the denial of charges that his country was seeking nuclear weapons.
"Our slogan has been 'no atomic bombs, no weapons of mass destruction, but access to advanced technology, including that aimed towards peaceful nuclear programs,'" Khatami said in a meeting of top commanders of the elite Revolutionary Guards Corps on Monday. He further said that "no one can ever stop us from materializing such a goal," adding, however, that Iran's official position on the resolution has been spelled out by the foreign ministry, which stated that "the nature of our cooperation with the IAEA is under consideration."
Khatami, at the same time, accused the United States of "making a hue and cry without any reasonable grounds ... just as their policy is based on extremism and expansionism."
In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, a leading reformist member of Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Akbar Alami, described the deadline as "contradictory to international laws."
"On the basis of what international norms and standards has Iran been threatened to sign the additional protocol when Israel has not even agreed to sign the NPT and the U.S. refuses to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and also the additional protocol?" the letter asked.
"The pressures exerted by the West and even the issuance of a resolution against Iran cannot force Iran to succumb to such illegitimate wishes," the letter further said.
Some other key reformists, including the Parliament Speaker Mehdi Karrubi, have also rejected the ultimatum, calling it "political."
"The Iranian people will not accept giving in to the logic of force," Karrubi said, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
And a prominent conservative, Iran's Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi, termed the resolution as "unjust," echoing other Iranian leaders' views that the United States and its allies "want to stop Iran from accessing new technology."
"The only solution is to resist," Shahroudi said.
Despite contradictory statements from Iranian officials, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who is also a vice president, told a meeting of the United Nation's watchdog body in Vienna on Monday that Tehran had no intention of withdrawing from the 1968 pact.
"Iran is fully committed to its NPT responsibilities, not only because of its contractual obligations, but also because of its religious and ethical considerations," Aghazadeh was quoted as having said.
Analysts believe, despite major successes, there are fears it is getting too late to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and that no country, including Iran, can, in reality, be stopped from developing a nuclear weapon even if they sign up to stricter inspections. http://interestalert.com/brand/siteia.shtml?Story=st/sn/09200000aaa03221.upi&Sys=siteia&Fid=WORLDNEW&Type=News&Filter=World%20News