IAEA finds that Iran did not violate Non-Proliferation Treaty

Monday, June 23, 2003

LONDON 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 agency.

"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 which is an expression representing the international community will not tolerate Iranian development of nuclear weaponry, which is exactly what the IAEA report is all about."

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