UN atomic watchdog agency reports stalemate over Irans nuclear programme
5 March 2007Lacking “the necessary level of transparency and cooperation,” the United Nations atomic watchdog agency reiterated yet again today that it could not provide assurances that Iran’s nuclear programme is solely for the peaceful purpose of generating energy and not for producing nuclear bombs. “The current situation remains somewhat of a stalemate,” UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei told the agency’s Board of Governors in presenting his latest report on Iran’s nuclear programme, noting that the case was in a class of its own because of Tehran’s two decades of undeclared activities in breach of its obligations under Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). “The Agency has been able to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran. However, we continue to be unable to reconstruct fully the history of Iran’s nuclear programme and some of its components, because we have not been provided with the necessary level of transparency and cooperation on the part of Iran,” he said. “We have not seen concrete proof of the diversion of nuclear material, nor the industrial capacity to produce weapon-usable nuclear material, which is an important consideration in assessing the risk. However, quite a few uncertainties still remain about experiments, procurements and other activities relevant to our understanding of the scope and nature of Iran’s programme. This renders the Agency unable to provide the required assurance about the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme,” he added. He termed Iran’s insistence on linking its readiness to resolve IAEA concerns to actions by the Security Council, which has already imposed sanctions and is considering further measures “difficult to understand,” and called for the resumption of negotiations between Tehran and all relevant parties. “I remain convinced that only through negotiation can a comprehensive and durable solution be attained to the Iranian nuclear question and other issues related to it,” he said. Iran insists its programme is purely for energy production but many other countries maintain it is for making weapons, and in December the Council imposed limited sanctions and called on Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment. In the IAEA report, Mr. ElBaradei noted that despite this Iran had continued enrichment, which can produce fuel for generating electricity or, at a much higher level, making nuclear bombs. It was the discovery in 2003 of Iran’s hidden activities that gave rise to the current crisis, as Mr. ElBaradei stressed today. “The IAEA’s confidence about the nature of Iran’s programme has been shaken because of two decades of undeclared activities,” he said. “This confidence will only be restored when Iran takes the long overdue decision to explain and answer all the Agency’s questions and concerns about its past nuclear activities in an open and transparent manner. Until that time, the Agency will have no option but to reserve its judgment about Iran’s nuclear programme, and as a result the international community will continue to express concern.” Mr. ElBaradei painted a more positive picture on another area of major IAEA concern, the nuclear programme of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), noting the DPRK’s agreement at diplomatic talks in Beijing last month to shut down and eventually abandon its Yongbyon nuclear facility. The agreement envisions the return of IAEA personnel to conduct necessary monitoring and verification after they were ordered out four years ago when the DPRK withdrew from the NPT. The DPRK also invited Mr. ElBaradei to visit. “I welcome the Beijing agreement, and the invitation to visit the DPRK, as positive steps towards the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and towards the normalization of the DPRK’s relationship with the Agency,” he said.