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. UN watchdog tells Iran to stop enriching uranium, sets review deadline
VIENNA (AFP) Sep 19, 2004
The UN atomic agency called on Iran to "immediately" suspend all activities related to the enrichment of uranium as it also set a November 25 deadline for a full review of Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program.

Iran reacted to the resolution Saturday by the UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) by saying it would cooperate but warned it may defy the agency's call to suspend uranium enrichment, the process for making fuel for nuclear reactors but also the explosive material for atomic bombs.

"The key thing is that Iran is now confronted with an ultimatum," non-proliferation expert Gary Samore told AFP in a telephone interview.

The compromise resolution worked out by the hardline United States and Europe's more conciliatory three main states, Britain, France and Germany, was "a victory for both American and European diplomacy," said Samore, a senior fellow at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

Britain, France and Germany had submitted the resolution, strongly opposed by non-aligned countries which fear imposing a deadline on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment could set a precedent for depriving developing nations of peaceful nuclear technology.

"The resolution was adopted by consensus, without a vote," International Atomic Energy Agency spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told reporters at a meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors, as the board voted not to consider the non-aligned movement's amendments to the text.

The United States claims Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons and has been lobbying strongly for decisive action against the Islamic Republic.

Washington had pressed for an October 31 ultimatum for Tehran to fully suspend uranium enrichment and report on its other activities to the IAEA, and for Iran to be automatically referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions if it failed to do so.

But in a compromise, the United States and the so-called Euro 3 set a November 25 deadline for a full review of Iran's nuclear program and called on Tehran to "immediately" suspend all uranium enrichment activities, with this also being reviewed in November.

No specific IAEA action was stipulated, as the resolution's paragraph said the IAEA board "will decide whether or not further steps are appropriate" instead of speaking of steps being "required" as the United States had wished.

But Samore said a "de facto ultimatum" was still there since the ball is now in Tehran's court.

US delegation chief Jackie Sanders said "this resolution sends an unmistakable signal to Iran that continuing its nuclear weapons program will bring it inevitably before the Security Council."

US Under Secretary of State for non-proliferation issues John Bolton told AFP from Washington that "closing the tactical gap" between the United States and the Euro 3 about how to handle Iran had been the key to getting the resolution adopted.

He said that maintaining a tough line in November will hinge "on the attitude of the EU 3," countries which in the past have favored constructive engagement rather than US-urged confrontation with Iran.

Iranian delegation chief Hossein Mousavian said Iran would continue to cooperate with the IAEA but felt free to resume uranium enrichment if it so decides, as this is allowed under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

He said Iran would decide in the next "two or three days" whether to resume enriching uranium.

Iran suspended enrichment in October 2003 as a confidence-building measure but has continued support activities such as building the centrifuges that refine the uranium.

It recently alarmed the United States by saying that it would be carrying out the first stage of the nuclear fuel cycle, making the uranium gas that is the feed for centrifuges.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said however that Iran must suspend all enrichment activities in order to restore confidence after having hid its nuclear activities for almost two decades, as the IAEA has documented in reports in an investigation that began in February 2003.

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