U.N. Nuclear Chief Repeats Call For Iran To Suspend Uranium Enrichment

AFP: UN atomic agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei opened a general conference of his agency by reiterating its call on Iran to fully suspend uranium enrichment, despite Tehran's apparent defiance.
His comments came the day after Iran rejected the International Atomic Energy Agency's resolution calling for a halt to sensitive nuclear work. AFP

VIENNA - UN atomic agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei opened a general conference of his agency by reiterating its call on Iran to fully suspend uranium enrichment, despite Tehran's apparent defiance.

His comments came the day after Iran rejected the International Atomic Energy Agency's resolution calling for a halt to sensitive nuclear work.

The 25-nation EU meanwhile made clear at the conference in Vienna that it supported the IAEA's call, in a speech by the Dutch EU presidency.

Britain, France and Germany, rather than the full European Union, had submitted the resolution adopted Saturday by the 35-nation IAEA board of governors that made the call and set a November 25 deadline for a full review of Iran's nuclear program, which the United States charges hides secret atomic weapons work.

ElBaradei said Iran, which the United States accuses of secretly developing nuclear weapons, should "do its utmost to build the required confidence through the agency," in a speech opening a week-long meeting in Vienna of all 137 IAEA member states.

Suspending uranium enrichment, the process that makes civilian nuclear fuel but also the exlosive core for atomic bombs, is a so-called confidence-building measure that goes beyond requirements laid down by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

ElBaradei said "Iran needs therefore, as the board made it explicitly clear last week, to continue to accelerate its cooperation . . . so that we can bring the remaining outstanding issues to resolution within the next few months and provide assurance to the international community."

The IAEA is a UN body that monitors compliance with the NPT.

But Iranian vice president and atomic energy chief Reza Aghazadeh said here that "calling upon a member state to suspend or stop activities, such as enrichment, uranium conversion as well as the construction of a research reactor planned to propose radioisotopes for medical, agricultural and industrial purposes, which are in no way prohibited in the agency's statute and NPT, will undermine the credibility" of the IAEA.

Iran "will not permit any interference and or interruption in our purely peaceful and indigenous nuclear program and it will not give up, at any price," Aghazadeh told the IAEA conference.

In Moscow, the Russian foreign ministry called on Iran to suspend enrichment, saying it demanded "absolute compliance" with the IAEA resolution.

Iran's top nuclear official Hassan Rowhani had said in Tehran Sunday: "Iran will not accept any obligations concerning the suspension of enrichment."

Rowhani did say Iran could accept a suspension "through negotiations" and if it was a "voluntary decision".

But he also warned that the Islamic republic would halt its application of a key safeguards treaty, the additional protocol to the NPT that authorizes wider IAEA inspections, if the nuclear dossier was referred to the UN Security Council, as sought by the United States.

Iran signed the additional protocol last December, but parliament has yet to ratify it. The text obliges Iran to accept tougher inspections, including short-notice visits to even undeclared facilities.

Washington -- which once described Iran as part of an "axis of evil" -- said Tehran should respond to the IAEA demands.

"It is essential that Iran now cooperate fully and immediately with the IAEA's requests," US Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham told the IAEA general conference, in a speech that followed ElBaradei's.

ElBaradei said that it was in Iran's interest to meet the conditions of the resolution since this would "trigger a comprehensive dialogue among all interested parties on all the underlying issues."

Tehran has said it wants the IAEA investigation of its nuclear program to end and for it to then normalize trade relations with the United States and Europe and be able to receive transfers of peaceful nuclear technology.