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UN Nuclear Agency Seen Demanding Iran Come Clean

Sun September 7, 2003 06:59 AM ET
By Louis Charbonneau

VIENNA (Reuters) - The United Nations nuclear watchdog looked set to urge Iran to come clean about what some suspect is its secret atomic weapons program, diplomats said.

But there was little support on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) governing board which meets in Vienna this week for a tough U.S. resolution that could have led to Iran reported to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.

But the now-softened resolution still calls for Iran's "urgent and essential cooperation," demands Tehran answer all outstanding questions about its uranium-enrichment program and sign a protocol permitting intrusive, snap IAEA inspections.

Diplomats said there was a good chance of the softened resolution being approved by a majority of the board.

They said IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei would back a strongly worded resolution demanding full cooperation from Iran but stopping short of declaring Iran in non-compliance.

"Any call by the board for Iran to do what it needs to do to answer the agency's questions would be welcome," said IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky. "That's what ElBaradei has been asking for all along."

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in Vienna, Kenneth Brill, said most board members want to strengthen the IAEA's hand so it can "get to the bottom of the Iranian nuclear file."

"From my consultations with other fellow members of the board, they, like the United States, see a pattern of behavior (that is) very troubling and certainly consistent with efforts to evade international obligations and to get the capacity to build nuclear weapons," Brill told reporters.

The United States, which has labeled Iran part of an "axis of evil," accuses Iran of secretly developing nuclear arms.

Iran denies the charge and says it is ready to start talks on allowing snap inspections, but says it wants clarifications on issues of sovereignty before signing up.

"A country like America is adopting an extremist stance on the issue with political motivations," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters on Sunday.


Some diplomats and non-proliferation experts say Iran's repeated failures to inform the U.N. about its nuclear program, detailed in two IAEA reports, clearly violate Iran's obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

More now agree with U.S. charges that Iran wants The Bomb.

"Iran has been secretly developing the capability to make nuclear weapons -- in particular, developing the wherewithal to produce separated plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU)," David Albright and Corey Hinderstein wrote in the latest issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

The IAEA's August report confirmed that inspectors found traces of weapons-grade HEU at the Natanz enrichment plant.

This finding has fueled suspicions that Iran has been secretly enriching uranium at Natanz to use in a nuclear weapon.

Tehran blames the HEU on contamination from imported centrifuge parts it bought on the black market in the 1980s. But it has refused to tell the IAEA where the parts come from, which prevents the agency from verifying the truth of the explanation.

Another cause for concern is Iran's experiments with the creation of uranium metal, which has few civilian uses, but is crucial for creating the uranium metal core of an atomic bomb.

"Countries with nuclear weapons programs tend to recognize this body of activities the Iranians have been conducting as being similar to the kinds of things that they've done in developing their own weapons systems," a senior diplomat said.

"Everything about Iran's nuclear program points to proliferation," said another Western diplomat.
9 posted on 09/07/2003 5:22:00 AM PDT by F14 Pilot
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Iran blasts Israel over Hamas attack, accuses EU of "discrimination"

Iran on Sunday accused Israel of "government-sponsored terrorism" by attempting to kill Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, and blasted the European Union for blacklisting his radical Palestinian group.

"This is another example of government-sponsored terrorism. We strongly condemn this," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said of Saturday's attack, in which Yassin was lightly wounded.

Asefi also blamed the Jewish state for the resignation of Palestinian prime minister Mahmud Abbas, who quit Saturday after a bitter power struggle with leader Yasser Arafat.

"The resignation of Mahmud Abbas happened because of Israel's obstacles and impediments," Asefi argued.

"The Zionist regime is moving against the will of the world community. It is oppressing the Palestinians, and given this kind of behaviour we cannot be hopeful for the future," he added.

The spokesman also hit out at a decision by EU foreign ministers to blacklist the political wing of Hamas and freeze its assets, saying that "labelling the populist struggle of the Palestinians as terrorist is a sign of discrimination."

Iran does not recognise Israel's right to exist, and is a vocal supporter of Palestinian resistance groups such as Hamas.
10 posted on 09/07/2003 5:26:32 AM PDT by F14 Pilot
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