Iran Nuclear NewsIAEA cuts back aid projects in Iran in nuclear...

IAEA cuts back aid projects in Iran in nuclear row

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Reuters: The U.N. nuclear agency has cut back almost half its technical aid projects in Iran to uphold U.N. sanctions imposed on Tehran over its disputed atomic energy program, according to a report obtained by Reuters on Friday. By Mark Heinrich

VIENNA (Reuters) – The U.N. nuclear agency has cut back almost half its technical aid projects in Iran to uphold U.N. sanctions imposed on Tehran over its disputed atomic energy program, according to a report obtained by Reuters on Friday.

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani is attending a security conference in Germany on Saturday, where U.N. officials hope talks with European policymakers will allow some breathing space in the atomic row with the West.

Organizers of the Munich Security Conference, bringing together some of the world’s top politicians, earlier said Larijani had canceled due to illness but confirmed late on Friday that he would attend.

The aid reduction, based on a review by International Atomic Energy Agency experts, will go for final approval to a March meeting of the IAEA’s board of governors, where Western and developing states are split over how hard to crack down on Iran.

“This is a substantial cut in the technical aid program for Iran,” said a senior U.N. official familiar with it. “It is a message of inducement to Iran to reconsider its course.”

Iran was hit with sanctions over its failure to prove to the IAEA that experimental efforts to enrich uranium are geared solely to generating electricity as it maintains. The West suspects Iran wants to produce fuel suitable for atom bombs.

Of 55 IAEA technical aid projects in Iran, 10 were halted entirely and 12 restricted as they could violate the December 23 Security Council sanctions resolution against Tehran. Forty of the 55 projects are run in neighboring states as well.

“No technical cooperation may be provided to Iran that relates to the proliferation of sensitive nuclear activities specified in the resolution”, namely enrichment of uranium, fuel reprocessing or heavy water production, the IAEA review said.

Projects stopped as a result of the U.N. watchdog’s confidential reassessment, issued in the name of IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei, related mainly to strategic nuclear power planning and generation of nuclear fuel.

“CHAIN REACTION” FEARED

The U.N. resolution bans transfers of sensitive nuclear materials and know-how to Iran as well as IAEA aid, traditionally given to bolster peaceful uses of nuclear energy, if it has any possible use in producing atomic fuel.

IAEA projects in Iran have fostered development of radio-pharmaceuticals and isotopes for medical care and agriculture, radioactive waste management, nuclear power planning and safety regulations, and training courses.

How broadly to apply the definition of banned projects is the subject of a brewing battle between the West and developing states on the Vienna-based IAEA’s 35-nation policymaking board.

A U.S. official said Washington had made its own study of IAEA technical aid for Iran and would consult with other board members before adopting a position for the March meeting.

Before Friday’s review, diplomats said the United States and close allies wanted a considerable number of projects in Iran canceled, curbed or put under close surveillance.

Developing nations have argued for much smaller cuts, noting there is no hard evidence Iran is diverting IAEA resources to bombmaking and fearing a precedent jeopardizing technical aid they have been routinely receiving for decades.

Western diplomats have said there would be little to talk in Germany about unless Larijani came showing a new Iranian willingness to suspend uranium enrichment as demanded by the U.N. resolution. Tehran has given no such indication.

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger said the meeting with Larijani had been arranged with an eye to a February 21 U.N. Security Council deadline for Iran to stop enriching uranium for nuclear fuel or risk broader financial sanctions.

Earlier, ElBaradei urged the two sides to avoid “an uncontrolled chain reaction” toward conflict and said he hoped a solution would be raised at the Munich meeting.

He appealed to both sides to take a simultaneous “time out”, with Tehran suspending their efforts to produce nuclear fuel and major powers suspending their steps to carry out sanctions.

“If we only focus on sanctions … that confrontation (risks) ending in an uncontrolled chain reaction … In the Middle East today, where it’s like a ball of fire, you have to be very cautious,” ElBaradei said.

Iran has promised an announcement of “significant” nuclear progress on Sunday when it crowns 10 days of celebrations marking the anniversary of its 1979 Islamic revolution.

Washington is building up forces in the Gulf but says it is committed to diplomacy and has no intention of invading Iran.

(Additional reporting by Francois Murphy in Paris, Sophie Walker in London, Madeline Chambers in Munich and Tom Armitage in Berlin)

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