AP: A six-year probe has not ruled out the possibility that Iran may be running clandestine nuclear programs, the chief U.N nuclear inspector said Monday, urging the country to end its secretive ways.
The Associated Press
By GEORGE JAHN
VIENNA, Austria (AP) — A six-year probe has not ruled out the possibility that Iran may be running clandestine nuclear programs, the chief U.N nuclear inspector said Monday, urging the country to end its secretive ways.
Europe also urged Iran to fully cooperate with a U.N probe that is trying to assess its past and current nuclear activities. An EU statement at the opening session of the International Atomic Energy Agency's 145-nation conference declared: "The international community cannot accept the prospect of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons."
Iran and ally Syria are among four nations seeking their region's nomination for a seat on the IAEA's decision-making 35-nation board.
Iran is running to counteract a U.S. push to have Afghanistan or outsider Kazakhstan elected over Syria, which is under IAEA investigation for allegedly hiding a secret nuclear program, including a nearly completed plutonium producing reactor destroyed last year by Israel.
If the regional group does not agree on a candidate by the time the conference turns to the issue, there will likely be a vote — an unusual turn because these meetings normally decide by consensus.
But chief U.N nuclear inspector Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the IAEA, focused on more overriding nuclear concerns about Iran — its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment and alleged past plans to develop the bomb.
On Saturday, the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution critical of Iran's defiance on uranium enrichment, which can create both nuclear fuel and the fissile core of warheads.
Urging it to "implement all transparency measures … required to build confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program," ElBaradei declared: "This will be good for Iran, good for the Middle East region and good for the world."
He also warned the session that his organization is increasingly stretched in trying to carry out responsibilities that include nonproliferation and preventing terrorists from acquiring the bomb.
"All is not well with the IAEA," ElBaradei declared, appealing for more money and authority for his agency.
Speaking for the EU, Luc Chatel of France called on Iran to "open the doors of its facilities, to give access to persons and documents, and to answer all the questions posed by (IAEA) inspectors."
The annual meeting allows the agency's member countries to set policies that range from strengthening nonproliferation to carrying medical and scientific research. But tensions between Islamic members and the West threaten to hamper decision-making.
A tradition of consensus, has normally led all sides to bridge sometimes substantial differences and opt for compromise for most of the conference's 52-year history. A vote on any topic is unusual and considered a huge dent in the meeting's credibility.
But frustration among Muslim countries over Israel's refusal to put its nuclear program under international purview, and resistance from the Jewish state to Muslim pressure on the issue, threatens to force a vote for the third year running.
As in the past two years, Muslim IAEA members are expected to put forward a resolution urging all Mideast nations to refrain from testing or developing nuclear arms and urging nuclear weapons states "to refrain from any action" hindering a Mideast nuclear-free zone.
After losing the vote two consecutive years, Islamic nations are threatening to up the ante this year, warning they will call for a ballot on every item, no matter how uncontroversial, unless they get conference backing on the Israeli nuclear issue.
Arab members — backed by Iran — this year have again asked conference organizers to include an item on Israel, this time labeled "Israeli Nuclear Capabilities" instead of "Nuclear Threat," as in previous years. That is being protested by Israel.
Focusing on Israel by name "is substantially unwarranted and flawed," said a letter prepared for review by the conference from Israel Michaeli, the Jewish state's IAEA representative.
Sponsors of the item should instead "address the most pressing proliferation concerns in the Middle East," the letter said, an allusion to Iran.