Reuters: The head of the U.N.’s atomic watchdog says Iran must be more open with inspectors probing its nuclear programme, which the United States says is aimed at making an atomic bomb. Mohamed ElBaradei was speaking on Monday as the board of governors of his International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) met one day after Iran’s nuclear planners scored a major victory with a key uranium fuel supply deal with Russia. Reuters
By Louis Charbonneau
VIENNA – The head of the U.N.’s atomic watchdog says Iran must be more open with inspectors probing its nuclear programme, which the United States says is aimed at making an atomic bomb.
Mohamed ElBaradei was speaking on Monday as the board of governors of his International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) met one day after Iran’s nuclear planners scored a major victory with a key uranium fuel supply deal with Russia.
“We are moving forward, we are making progress,” ElBaradei told reporters, while urging Iran to be more helpful to IAEA nuclear inspectors.
“I would continue to ask Iran to be more proactive and provide us with information that can accelerate our work.”
Iran, OPEC’s second largest oil producer, says its nuclear intentions are limited to peaceful generation of electricity. Washington says the programme is a front to build a bomb.
ElBaradei said the agency had been able to verify Tehran’s suspension of activities connected with uranium enrichment, a process of purifying uranium for use as fuel for nuclear power plants or, when very highly enriched, in weapons.
“(This) is a good thing,” he said.
The IAEA’s 35-member board was not expected to pass any resolutions this week that would condemn Iran or refer it to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions, diplomats said.
The European Union has demanded Iran make the suspension permanent if it is to get access to economic and political incentives including telecommunications and aircraft deals and possible membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Washington says Tehran must accept the EU offer or be referred to the Security Council for possible sanctions.
RUSSIA-U.S. SPLIT ON IRAN
The Washington Post reported that the United States, at the request of key European allies, was seriously considering whether to join forces with the EU in its offer of incentives.
Iran, however, rejects the EU’s demand, saying it will never give up enrichment and the Europeans must accept a compromise.
“Otherwise they will have to opt for a confrontation, as the U.S. seems to prefer, which would lead to an uncertain situation with unforeseeable consequences for everyone,” Sirus Naseri, a senior Iranian delegate at the IAEA meeting, told Reuters. “I think the Europeans will opt for reason.”
Iranian officials meet next month with officials from the EU “big three” — Britain, France and Germany — for a new round of nuclear talks. The trio has told Iran that only giving up enrichment can convince the world its atomic plans are peaceful.
While Washington mulls joining EU efforts, it is threatening to renew its drive to refer Iran to the Security Council in June if Tehran rejects EU demands — a threat that was outlined in a confidential draft U.S. position paper seen by Reuters.
Avoiding the U.N. council is a key element of an EU-Iran agreement signed in Paris last year.
Sunday’s Iran-Russia nuclear fuel supply deal paved the way for a start-up of Iran’s first atomic power plant next year.
A leading U.S. Republican senator said Washington should seek to bar Russia from this year’s G8 summit of major nations to protest against Moscow’s actions including the fuel deal.
“The United States and our European allies should start out by saying, ‘Vladimir (Putin), you’re not welcome at the next G8 conference,'” said Senator John McCain, an influential member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The next summit of the Group of Eight major nations, which includes Russia, is in July.