12182014Thu

Iran in focus at UN atomic energy meeting

By Simon STURDEE

VIENNA (AFP) — Iran is set to be the main talking point at a two-day meeting of the UN atomic agency starting Thursday, amid ongoing weaponisation fears and safety concerns over Tehran's only operating nuclear power plant.

Western countries will refrain however from seeking a censure motion from the 35-nation International Atomic Energy Agency board against Iran, in part to enable renewed diplomatic efforts to resolve the long-running crisis a chance.

In September, 31 countries backed a resolution of "serious concern that Iran continues to defy" UN Security Council resolutions for it to suspend its uranium enrichment, which can be used for peaceful means but also for a nuclear weapon.

The IAEA'S latest report on Iran on November 16 said that while diplomatic efforts have been deadlocked for the past six months, Tehran has been using the time to steadily expand its activities.

Iran is ready to switch on another 696 centrifuges at Fordo, enabling it to double production of 20-percent enriched uranium at the heavily fortified facility, the report said.

Fordo's final 644 machines have also been installed but are not yet ready to be put into operation. Once they are, Iran will be able to triple its current monthly output of 20-percent enriched uranium to some 45 kilos (100 pounds).

The Fordo complex is a key site in Iran's nuclear programme, dug deep into a mountain to protect it against air strikes.

Israel, which has refused to rule out military action, is thought to have a "red line"; when Iran has produced around 250 kilos. That would be enough, if further enriched, for one nuclear weapon.

Supporting Iran's argument that its programme is for peaceful means is the IAEA's finding that of the 232.8 kilos of enriched uranium produced so far, 96.3 kilos has been converted into a powder that can then be turned into fuel for a reactor producing nuclear medicine.

The amount converted has however slowed dramatically, indicating possible technical problems, and once Fordo is fully up and running, Iran will be producing far more material than its civilian facilities need, experts say.

The IAEA's report also said that Iran, the only country with an operating nuclear reactor that does not adhere to the post-Chernobyl Convention on Nuclear Safety, has unloaded fuel at the Bushehr plant, shutting it down.

Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told AFP that the move was a "normal technical procedure" but Western diplomats said it raised fresh questions about safety at the 1,000-megawatt facility on the Gulf coast.

"This is not a routine matter or something that is ordinary. This is a matter of great concern," one senior Western official said.

The reactor, started by Germany's Siemens and completed by Russian firm Rosatom, was only plugged into the nation grid in late 2011 after years of financial, technical and political delays.

This latest suspected problem "is probably not something to be overly worried about, either on proliferation or safety grounds," said Mark Fitzpatrick from the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

"But because of the way Iran does this, without giving any details, it naturally creates concerns," Fitzpatrick told AFP last week.

The IAEA and Iran talks are set to resume on December 13 in Tehran, meanwhile, focused on what the agency calls "overall, credible" evidence that until 2003, and possibly since, Iran conducted nuclear weapons research.

Search

Act of Cowardice

Iran's ruling tyrants have executed yet another political prisoner in flagrant violation of international law.  READ MORE

The rush to Tehran amidst rise in executions

World leaders should halt these visits and link any deal with Iran to its human rights record.  READ MORE

Arming a dictator

What if President Obama ordered the sale of arms to Syrian dictator to massacre his opponents? READ MORE

Slaughter intensifies under Rouhani

231 executions have occurred since the presidential election in June which brought to power Hassan Rouhani. READ MORE

Silence is not the answer

Iran: Bloody crackdown targeting dissidents aims at terrorizing the people into submission. READ MORE

Iran’s Murder Machine

The wheels of Iran's Murder Machine turn in tandem with its nuclear machine. READ MORE

What now?

The West must drop the dangerous pretence that talking to a regime not interested in listening constitutes the winning strategy. READ MORE

A facelift

This cosmetic facelift should not dupe the West into thinking that there are fresh prospects for a nuclear deal. READ MORE

An Act of Cowardice

The terrorist attack against Iranian exiles at Camp Liberty, Iraq, is another sign of Iranian regime's weakness. READ MORE

Much atalk about nothing

In Istanbul they merely agreed to talk about talking later in May in Baghdad, of all places. READ MORE

An unholy alliance

The brutal state-imposed bloodbath in Syria deserves uncompromising reproach. READ MORE

Iran cries for freedom

The clerical regime in Iran has predictably unleashed another wave of terror against the citizenry since the outburst of the latest string of mass protests beginning on 14 February. READ MORE

A new Iran policy

The latest round of nuclear talks had an all-too-familiar result: more time for Tehran and less time for the international community to prevent a nuclear-armed theocracy. READ MORE

Murder overlooked

What would the rest of us do if a mad gunman was in our midst, systematically murdering our fellow human beings in front of our eyes? The responsible amongst us would not look the other way, because that would serve as a source of encouragement for the murderers to carry on with their heinous acts unchecked. READ MORE

Standing up to Iran's executioners

The Iranian regime's malicious noose has yet again taken an innocent life. Political prisoner Ali Saremi, 63, was hanged in Tehran's infamous Evin prison after a lifetime of peacefully espousing human rights and democracy. READ MORE