LONDON Ñ The International Atomic Energy Agency, in what was seen as
a defeat for the United States, has refused to find Iran in violation of the
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The IAEA issued a statement on Thursday that urged Iran to stop
enriching nuclear fuel and cooperate with the agency in inspections of
nuclear facilities. But the agency did not determine that Iran concealed
nuclear facilities or took other action that violated the NPT.
The United States had urged
the board to declare Iran as being in violation of the NPT, a move that
could have resulted in a United Nations-ordered international embargo of all
nuclear material to Teheran.
Western diplomatic sources said the agency's statement appears to ensure
that the Iran's nuclear reactor at Bushehr will be completed, Middle East Newsline reported. They said
Russia, the facility's prime contractor, had slowed down construction of the
$800 million light-water reactor amid heavy U.S. pressure and Iran's refusal
to sign an agreement for the return of spent nuclear fuel.
Iran expressed satisfaction with the IAEA statement, but did not commit
to agree to instrusive inspections by the agency. Teheran said it would
continue its nuclear program.
The agency statement came at the end of a week-long meeting of the board
of governors, which represents 35 member states.
Instead, the IAEA issued what diplomats termed a compromise that sought
to avoid a confrontation with Iran. The statement stopped short of issuing
any demands to Teheran and suggested that Iran has begun to cooperate with
"The board shared the concern expressed by the director-general in his
report at the number of Iran's past failures to report material, facilities
and activities as required by its safeguards obligations," the IAEA
statement said. "Noting the Iranian actions taken thus far to correct these
failures, the board urged Iran promptly to rectify all safeguards problems
identified in the report and resolve questions that remain open."
The statement cited IAEA concern over Iran's gas centrifuge facility at
Natanz. In a February inspection, the agency found hundreds of centrifuges
with space for thousands of more in what the United States has determined to
be the basis of a uranium enrichment facility.
"The board welcomed Iran's reaffirmed commitment to full transparency
and expected Iran to grant the agency all access deemed necessary by the
agency in order to create the necessary confidence in the international
community," the IAEA statement said. "Noting that the enrichment plant is
under IAEA safeguards, the board encouraged Iran, pending the resolution of
related outstanding issues, not to introduce nuclear material at the pilot
enrichment plant, as a confidence-building measure."
Earlier this month, Iran blocked IAEA inspectors from entering the
Kalaye Electric Co. where parts for uranium-enriching centrifuges were
built. The inspectors were also said to have been restricted in their tour
of Natanz in Feburary.
Western diplomatic sources said the United States failed to win
sufficient support for an IAEA determination that Iran had violated the NPT.
They said Washington, blocked by a non-aligned coalition led by Malaysia,
also failed to convince the agency to release a timetable for Iranian
compliance. In its statement, the IAEA urged Iran to allow inspectors to
take environmental samples at Kalaye to determine whether uranium enrichment
has been conducted.
The Bush administration has attempted to portray the IAEA statement as a
victory for U.S. foreign policy. The White House said the agency supported
President George Bush's call for an international effort to make certain
that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons.
"If the Iranians are pursuing peaceful nuclear energy, as they claim
they are, then they have every reason to comply with the IAEA's request,
particularly the two specific requests to take the environmental sample and
to sign the additional protocol," White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer
said. "And as the president said, we Ñ which is an expression representing
the international community Ñ will not tolerate Iranian development of
nuclear weaponry, which is exactly what the IAEA report is all about."