Vienna (AFP) Aug 22, 2007
The United States on Wednesday said an Iranian agreement with the UN atomic agency to clarify its contested nuclear programme had "real limitations" and accused Tehran of employing delaying tactics to avoid further UN sanctions.
The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran announced on Tuesday that they had agreed a timetable for Tehran to answer long-standing questions about its atomic drive, which Washington claims is aimed at making a nuclear bomb.
"We understand there are real limitations with the (timetable) plan," US ambassador Gregory Schulte told reporters in a telephone press conference in Vienna, citing Tehran's "continued refusal" to implement the IAEA's additional protocol on wider inspections.
"Moreover, Iran's leadership has made clear that implementation of the plan is dependent on no (UN) Security Council action," Schulte said.
The Council has imposed two rounds of sanctions to get Iran to suspend enriching uranium, which can be used as power reactor fuel but also atom bomb material, and to cooperate fully with IAEA inspectors.
Schulte insisted that the United States would continue pushing for a third round of sanctions, which diplomats said Washington wanted to happen in September.
Iran "is clearly trying to distract attention from its continued development of bomb-making capability. I don't think the Security Council will be distracted," Schulte said.
"Of course, we welcome any progress in resolving troubling questions about Iran's nuclear activities," Schulte said, but Iran must honor "the core requirement of suspension and full cooperation."
Diplomats said however that Russia, backed by China and perhaps even some European states, would block more sanctions at the Security Council as long as the new IAEA-Iran cooperation continued.
Non-proliferation analyst Gary Samore told AFP from New York: "Unfortunately I think the Iranians are going to buy themselves some time. There is no prospect of a resolution as long as Iran is seen to be moving on resolving the issues."
This could put off any chance of sanctions until the end of the year, Samore said.
"As long as the Iranians play it smart and continue to dribble out cooperation with the IAEA, they can probably delay another Security Council resolution at last in the immediate future, for a couple of months," Samore said.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in Azerbaijan on Wednesday that sanctions would not keep Iran from developing what Tehran insists is nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
A diplomat close to the IAEA called Schulte's comments "very unhelpful" and "a deliberate campaign" to derail the process of addressing international concern about Iran's nuclear ambitions.
"Countries should be encouraged by this increased cooperation between Iran and the IAEA," he said.
"When the head of the IAEA's department of safeguards characterizes this agreement as a milestone, it is disingenous to dismiss it before even knowing the details about what the work plan contains."
The accord was announced by the UN watchdog's head of safeguards Olli Heinonen and Iranian national security official Javad Vaeedi after two days of talks in Tehran.
A second diplomat said the achievement in reaching a timetable accord with the Iranians should not be underestimated.
The timetable was specific, "with the next steps coming the next week, something in September, and then something in November" the diplomat said.
"These are not so much day-to-day safeguards implementation but mainly outstanding issues," the diplomat said, citing questions over the possible Iranian development of high-tech centrifuges to enrich uranium and Iran's experiments with plutonium, which can be used for atom bombs.
The diplomat said there were "about 10 items" in the timetable, including resolving Iran's refusal to accept some inspectors designated by the IAEA.
"The important thing is that all the outstanding issues have a plan, a timeline," he said
Details of the timetable are to be be revealed in an IAEA report on Iran's nuclear programme that is due to be released in two weeks.
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Iran's Ahmadinejad vows to continue nuclear programme
Baku (AFP) Aug 22, 2007
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wrapped up a visit to neighbouring Azerbaijan on Wednesday with a vow to continue Iran's contested nuclear programme.
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