Iran threatens to end ties with UN nuke watchdog
( 2003-09-14 10:57) (Agencies)
As pressure mounted on Iran to prove it had no secret atomic weapons program by October 31, Tehran warned it might follow North Korea's lead and quit the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Following intense U.S. lobbying for action against Iran, the 35-nation governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) passed a resolution on Friday demanding Iran answer all outstanding questions about its nuclear program.
The resolution implies that if the IAEA still has doubts about Iran's atomic program in November, its board might declare Iran in breach of international obligations and report it to the U.N. Security Council for possible economic sanctions.
Approval of the resolution ignited the wrath of Tehran. Iran's ambassador to the IAEA in Vienna, Ali Akbar Salehi, said it showed Washington intended to invade Iran as it had Iraq.
In an interview in the German weekly Der Spiegel, he expressed anger at U.S. desires to stop Iran from enriching uranium, due to Washington's fears Tehran might be purifying it for use in a bomb.
The resolution calls on Iran to suspend all uranium enrichment activities for the time being and not to introduce uranium to its enrichment plant at Natanz.
"We could at first limit our cooperation with the IAEA to a minimum, to that which we have committed ourselves," Salehi said in the interview, which Der Spiegel said took place on Wednesday, a day after a draft of the tough resolution was tabled.
"We could also put a stop to cooperation. And as a last measure, I cannot rule out that we could withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)."
Surprisingly, Russia -- which diplomats said had fought hard to weaken the U.S.-backed language of the resolution to protect billions of dollars of future nuclear deals with Tehran -- threw its political weight behind the deadline and publicly backed it.
"(The resolution) is a serious and respectful appeal by the agency for Iran to cooperate with IAEA...and do so without delay," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak told Interfax.
If Iran were declared in non-compliance with its IAEA nuclear Safeguards Agreement -- a key part of the NPT -- and reported to the Security Council for sanctions, Tehran could lose the right to any foreign nuclear assistance.
That means Russia would lose out on a nearly US$1 billion deal to construct the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran.
Tehran denies U.S. allegations that it has violated the NPT in an effort to develop atomic weapons secretly.
But Anoush Ehtesami, professor of international relations at Britain's University of Durham, said some in Iran's military wanted to quit the NPT and follow Pakistan and India's example.
"The lesson Iran has learned...is that you can have a clandestine program, and when you complete it you declare your nuclear status and after a little period of economic sanctions the world moves on," he told the BBC.
WHAT IRAN MUST DO BY OCTOBER 31
Friday's resolution said Iran must fully cooperate with the IAEA to enable it to verify the "non-diversion of nuclear materials" to a secret weapons program.
By the end of October, Iran must give the IAEA a "full declaration" of uranium enrichment-related imports, especially "imported equipment and components stated to have been contaminated with highly enriched uranium particles."
The IAEA's discovery of weapons-grade enriched uranium at an enrichment facility at Natanz sparked fears it has already learned how to make bomb-grade uranium.
Iran blamed the uranium on contaminated components bought abroad, an explanation that has met with widespread skepticism.
Tehran must also grant "unrestricted access" to IAEA inspectors throughout the country and permit them to take environmental samples wherever they choose. Tehran has refused to let IAEA inspectors to take samples at some sites.
Finally, Iran must "remedy all failures" and take all steps necessary for the IAEA to "resolve all outstanding issues involving nuclear materials and nuclear activities" in Iran.
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