Reuters: Western and developing nations broadly accept a U.N. nuclear agency plan to cut almost half its aid projects in Iran, diplomats say, easing fears of a row over how strictly to apply U.N. sanctions against Tehran. By Mark Heinrich
VIENNA (Reuters) – Western and developing nations broadly accept a U.N. nuclear agency plan to cut almost half its aid projects in Iran, diplomats say, easing fears of a row over how strictly to apply U.N. sanctions against Tehran.
The plan, to cut technical aid projects based on a review by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts, must be approved at a March 5-9 meeting of the agency’s 35-nation Board of Governors.
But members ranging from Iran’s arch-foe the United States to its close ally Cuba raised no objections when IAEA aides, at a briefing this week, explained their criteria for shutting down some projects while continuing others, diplomats present said.
“No one is totally satisfied. But the review is as balanced as can be under the circumstances. I see no one wanting to pick a fight when the board convenes,” a senior diplomat from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which includes Iran, told Reuters.
This suggested the board may ratify the review by consensus rather than amend and vote on it, averting a damaging split.
Iran was hit with U.N. sanctions over its failure to prove to the IAEA that its efforts to enrich uranium are geared only towards generating electricity, as it maintains. Western powers suspect Iran wants to produce fuel suitable for atom bombs.
The Dec. 23 resolution bans transfers of sensitive nuclear materials and expertise to Iran as well as IAEA technical aid — traditionally given to bolster peaceful uses of nuclear energy — if it has any possible use in yielding atomic fuel.
Of the 55 IAEA aid projects in Iran, 10 were frozen and 12 others restricted to comply with the sanctions.
“We are pleased that the IAEA has decided to cut technical assistance to 22 projects,” Gregory Schulte, U.S. ambassador to the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog, said after the briefing.
“We are still studying the report. But our preliminary analysis is that the IAEA approach meets the requirements of U.N. Security Council resolution,” he said in a statement.
Before the IAEA Secretariat issued its review on Feb. 9, diplomats said the United States and allies like France and Australia favoured more sweeping cuts of aid for Iran.
NAM board members argued for smaller cuts. They noted there is no hard evidence Iran is diverting IAEA resources to military ends and fear a precedent jeopardising aid for nuclear energy.
“The general feeling was we should trust the Secretariat’s judgment and not micro-manage,” said Ambassador Ernest Petric of Slovenia, chairman of the IAEA’s policymaking board.
Iranian Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh told Reuters the decision was unwarranted and weakened IAEA credibility.
“We don’t blame the Secretariat, just certain (Western) powers on the Security Council who dictated for the first time in history how the IAEA should give out aid,” he said on Friday.
“Developing nations could lose motivation to stay in the IAEA. We are not in it just to be inspected. None of these projects were related to our enrichment programme. We don’t need them for enrichment, and the programme will continue.”
IAEA projects in Iran had fostered development of radio-pharmaceuticals and isotopes for medical care and agriculture, radioactive waste management, nuclear power planning and safety regulations, and training courses.
Projects stopped under the IAEA review related mainly to strategic nuclear power planning and generation of nuclear fuel.
The March IAEA board meeting will also consider two reports by agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei — one likely to find Iran has defied a Feb. 21 Security Council deadline for suspending enrichment, which could provoke broader sanctions, the other on prospects for returning IAEA inspectors to North Korea after a six-power pact this week to halt its nuclear bomb programme.