AFP: The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize Friday to the UN atomic watchdog and its chief Mohamed ElBaradei has left Iran fearful of facing intensified pressure over its hotly disputed nuclear programme. AFP
TEHRAN – The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize Friday to the UN atomic watchdog and its chief Mohamed ElBaradei has left Iran fearful of facing intensified pressure over its hotly disputed nuclear programme.
Iran, accused by the United States and Israel of using its nuclear energy drive as cover for weapons ambitions, has always sought to counter those claims by working within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
But with ElBaradei’s last report on Iran notable for its critical tone and the IAEA chief saying the prize will “strengthen his resolve”, Iranian officials were unafraid to admit their concern for the future course of events.
“Since the start of the crisis, Mohamed ElBaradei always resisted US pressure and his reports were more technical. But recently, for some reason, he has changed his position and his last report was very political,” said one top Iranian official, who asked not to be named.
“The attitude of ElBaradei has not been consistent on the Iranian nuclear issue,” said Kazem Jalali, spokesman of parliament’s foreign affairs committee. “He was trapped between a technical and legalistic vision and a political attitude,” he added.
“There are two ways in which to view the award of this prize. The optimistic hypothesis is that the prize will reinforce the role of the agency and the technical work it does to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
“The pessimistic hypothesis is that with this prize, Mr ElBaradei will become closer to the political position of the United States and the Europeans, especially on the nuclear issue. And he will put more pressure on Iran.
“In my opinion I think that the second hypothesis is the closer to reality,” Jalali concluded.
Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres, himself a Peace Prize winner, has already described the award to ElBaradei and his watchdog as a warning to Iran.
“It is a warning to Iran because Iran is today the biggest and most dangerous problem,” he told Israeli public radio.
Iran vehemently maintains its nuclear programme is merely for peaceful purposes.
ElBaradei was quick to pledge that the award would “strengthen my resolve and those of my colleagues to speak the truth to power”, without being more specific.
The prize comes at a critical moment in the long running standoff over Iran’s nuclear programme after IAEA in September passed a resolution finding the country in breach of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Negotiations between Iran and Britain, France and Germany to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis broke down in August, when Iran resumed nuclear fuel cycle work in defiance of a pledge to freeze such activities during the talks.
The resolution paved the way for Iran to be hauled before the UN Security Council for possible sanctions over its nuclear programme, an outcome that the talks with the EU-3 had attempted to avoid.
Speaking in Moscow on Wednesday, ElBaradei said he was “optimistic” Iran would resume talks but said it must still answer questions to allay the allegations it wants to build nuclear weapons.