Iran Nuclear NewsIAEA governors ratify cut in nuclear aid to Iran

IAEA governors ratify cut in nuclear aid to Iran

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Reuters: U.N. nuclear agency governors on Thursday ratified cuts in technical aid to Iran over concern that Tehran might be trying to build nuclear bombs under cover of a civilian atomic energy programme, diplomats said. By Mark Heinrich and Karin Strohecker

VIENNA (Reuters) – U.N. nuclear agency governors on Thursday ratified cuts in technical aid to Iran over concern that Tehran might be trying to build nuclear bombs under cover of a civilian atomic energy programme, diplomats said.

The move by the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) followed U.N. sanctions passed in December that ban transfers of technology or expertise to Iran that might be of use in producing nuclear fuel.

By consensus, the board adopted a decision by the IAEA’s Secretariat to freeze or curb 22 of the 55 aid projects, diplomats in the closed session at IAEA headquarters said.

Western powers such as the United States and France who bankroll the IAEA’s special aid programmes and drew up sanctions against Iran originally demanded more sweeping reductions.

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) bloc of developing nations, to which Iran belongs, had opposed cuts. They feared a precedent would be set jeopardising their own access to IAEA aid for nuclear energy seen as key to modernising their economies.

They also noted there is no hard evidence Iran is abusing IAEA resources for military ends, although doubts abound.

“No one is totally satisfied. But both sides felt it best not to challenge the Secretariat’s professional judgement. It was as fair and balanced as possible under the politically charged circumstances,” a senior NAM diplomat told Reuters.

Only two states in the IAEA’s 50-year history have been stripped of nuclear aid due to concern about possible diversions into bombmaking — North Korea and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

The blocked projects related to nuclear power planning and technical and security measures in developing nuclear fuel.

Projects that were spared involve radiopharmaceuticals and isotopes for medical, agriculture and humanitarian purposes.

IRAN CONDEMNS CUTS

Ahead of the widely expected decision, Iranian envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh condemned it and blamed the U.N. Security Council, saying it had illegally undermined the IAEA’s professional independence.

Soltanieh said none of the projects had anything to do with nuclear fuel production and this would continue no matter what.

Tehran says its nuclear programme, centred on uranium enrichment which can yield fuel for power plants or, if taken to higher degrees, bombs, is meant only to generate electricity.

Western powers suspect a hidden agenda to build nuclear arms and four years of IAEA investigations often stonewalled by Iran have failed to verify Iran’s intentions are entirely peaceful.

The three major EU powers on the board urged Iran on Wednesday to embrace a U.N. idea of a “timeout” from nuclear activity, saying sanctions they sponsored against Tehran would be simultaneously suspended.

Iran rejected the overture, insisting its bid for nuclear energy was peaceful, legal and non-negotiable. Tehran said it shared Europe’s wish for talks to resolve the standoff but only on ways to assure the West it had no covert nuclear arms agenda.

Iran ignored a February 21 U.N. Security Council deadline to stop refining uranium and took initial steps to shift from research-level enrichment to “industrial-scale” production.

But U.S.-led efforts to broaden sanctions face opposition from Russia and China.

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