Vienna (AFP) Jan 18, 2007
The International Atomic Energy Agency has halted some of its technical aid to Iran following the United Nations' sanctions against Tehran's nuclear programme, the chairman of the agency's board of governors said Thursday. "The (IAEA) secretariat has put on hold, suspended, some projects which are prima facie under the sanctions" imposed in December by the UN Security Council, Slovenian ambassador Ernest Petric, who this year heads the agency's 35-member board of governors, told AFP.
IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei will submit a report on technical cooperation with Iran "at the beginning of February", before handing in a comprehensive report, requested by the Security Council, on Tehran's uranium enrichment, Petric and other diplomatic sources said in Vienna.
The Security Council passed a resolution on December 23 imposing sanctions on Iran following Tehran's refusal to suspend uranium enrichment.
Highly-enriched uranium can be used to build an atom bomb and the West fears that Tehran could use its civilian programme to acquire a nuclear weapon.
ElBaradei sent a letter on December 27 to the Slovenian chairman of the IAEA board to say his secretariat "will evaluate all IAEA technical cooperation projects for Iran in light of resolution 1737 and will prepare a report including a list of the projects which could, in the Secretariat's judgement, continue to be implemented."
The number of projects to be suspended was not stated but they involve cooperation measures, including regional cooperation, that could have military implications, diplomatic sources said.
The Security Council directed all states in its December 23 resolution "to prevent the supply, sale or transfer... of all items, materials, equipment, goods and technology which could contribute to Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs."
No extraordinary reunion is expected ahead of the board of governors' regular meeting on March 5, where they will discuss technical cooperation among other issues, Petric said.
At this time, the board's members will examine the list of technical cooperation projects and decide which of them should be put on hold, he added.
"Neither I nor any board members wants to meddle at this point in the secretariat's work," he said, adding that some projects will be suspended, but others such as humanitarian or water projects may be continued.
In November 2006, the IAEA rejected Tehran's request for technical help in building a heavy-water reactor in Arak that the West fears could provide weapons grade material.
But Iran has said it is determined to maintain its nuclear programme and announced Monday that it was aiming to install at least 3,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium at a key nuclear plant in defiance of Western warnings to freeze the sensitive activity.
IAEA inspections are however still underway at the Natanz enrichment plant, a diplomat close to the agency said.
Another added that to start 3,000 centrifuges could take months and the machines seemed to be "relatively primitive."
ElBaradei warned Thursday in Paris that the UN's limited sanctions against Iran -- a result of differences between the United States, the European Union, China and Russia -- were not a solution and could instead "lead to escalation" between Tehran and the West.
He voiced support for French plans to send a special envoy to Tehran, saying he "would support any effort by any side to engage Iran into comprehensive negotiation."
earlier related report
The UN Security Council in December imposed its first ever sanctions against Iran over its failure to suspend uranium enrichment, which Western powers fear could be used to make a nuclear weapon.
Iran insists that its nuclear drive is solely aimed at generating energy for a growing population.
Asked whether he supported French plans to send a special envoy to Tehran, ElBaradei said he "would support any effort by any side to engage Iran into comprehensive negotiation."
"My worry right now is that each side is sticking to its guns," ElBaradei said. "We need someone to reach out."
France's foreign ministry said this week it was discussing plans to send an envoy to Tehran to discuss "regional issues" including Lebanon and Israel -- but that he "would not attempt to tackle the nuclear question."
On Thursday the ministry said it had yet to reach a firm decision on sending an envoy, a proposal which has drawn hostile reactions from both Israel and the United States.
ElBaradei said he would discuss the best way to engage Tehran during talks later Thursday French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy.
"We obviously share the same objective that nobody wants to see Iran developing a nuclear weapon.
"It's a question of tactic, how you go about that, and I think it's what we are going to discuss today and see how we can move forward."
"My priority is to make sure that Iran will not go industrial (with the enrichment of uranium), that Iran will not stop inspections" by the UN's nuclear watchdog, ElBaradei said.
"We need to find a way to create the conditions to restart negotiations," he said, adding that "the idea that dialogue is a reward for a good behaviour is wrong for me."
Repeating his view that "the world is a less secure place than 15 years ago," ElBaradei also argued that the current nuclear status quo was "absolutely unjustified".
He said the refusal of nuclear-armed countries to disarm encourages a "domino phenomenon", pushing other countries such as Japan to seek nuclear arms as the guarantee of their big power status.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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US Denies Meetings With North Koreans Signal Policy Shift
Washington, Jan 18 (AFP) Jan 18, 2007
US officials denied Thursday that a rare series of meetings between senior US and North Korean diplomats in Berlin marked a break with the Bush administration's long-standing refusal to negotiate directly with the Stalinist regime. "This is not an instance of bilateral negotiations," Tony Snow, President George W. Bush's spokesman, said of the three days of talks on North Korea's nuclear program between Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill and Pyongyang's top nuclear negotiator, Kim Kye-gwan.
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