UN group defers to Iran, rejects U.S. deadline

Monday, September 20, 2004

LONDON The International Atomic Energy Agency has rejected a U.S. effort to set a deadline for an end to Iran's uranium enrichment program.

Instead, the IAEA expressed concern over Iran's intention to introduce 37 tons of yellowcake, a milled uranium oxide regarded as the first element in the enriched uranium process. But the resolution did not threaten any measures against Teheran, Middle East Newsline reported.

The United States protested the decision.

"To wait until the IAEA finds the nuclear weapons is to wait until it is too late," U.S. chief delegate Jackie Sanders told the IAEA board.

"With every passing week, Iran moves that much closer to reaching the point where neither we, nor any other international body, will be able to prevent it from achieving nuclear weapons capacity."

The resolution set a Nov. 25 deadline for a review of Iran's nuclear program and called for the suspension of Teheran's uranium enrichment activities.

The resolution regarding Iran, a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, was passed unanimously by the agency's 35-nation board of governors.

The resolution on Saturday called on IAEA director-general Mohammed El Baradei to submit a report in advance of the November board meeting regarding Iranian compliance. The El Baradei report would also address previous resolutions that called for a "full suspension of all [Iranian] enrichment-related and reprocessing activities."

"It [IAEA at November meeting] will decide whether or not further steps are appropriate in relation to Iran's obligations under its NPT Safeguards Agreement," the resolution said.

The latest resolution, which marked the end to the agency's board of governors meeting in Vienna, called for a halt to a range of Iranian nuclear activities.

"...Iran [should] immediately suspend all enrichment-related activities, including the manufacture or import of centrifuge components, the assembly and testing of centrifuges," the resolution said. "[The resolution] calls again on Iran, as a further confidence-building measure, voluntarily to reconsider its decision to start construction of a research reactor moderated by heavy water."

At the same time, the resolution failed to set an automatic trigger that would send the Iranian nuclear issue to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions. The agency, over U.S. objections, also insisted that the resolution contain a clause that reiterated Iran's right to administer a civilian nuclear program.

Iran has pledged to continue its nuclear program as well as uranium enrichment. But Iranian officials said Teheran would decide over the next week whether to temporarily suspend uranium enrichment.

For his part, El Baradei said inspectors have not found evidence that Iran was producing nuclear weapons. But the IAEA's latest report said inspectors required further study of Iran's nuclear program, including such issues as enriched uranium contamination, the scope of the P-2 centrifuge program and the timeframe of Iran's plutonium separation experiments.

U.S. officials said the resolution could mark a turning point in diplomatic efforts to halt Iran's nuclear weapons program. They said the agency was being ordered to end nearly two years of investigation by determining whether Teheran has been in compliance with the NPT.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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