The United Nations atomic watchdog issued a report
Thursday saying that Iran had been generally truthful about key aspects of its
past nuclear activities, but warned that knowledge of Tehran's program was "diminishing."
The International Atomic Energy Agency said that Iran continued to enrich uranium
contrary to the decisions of the UN Security Council, and that Tehran's cooperation
with the agency had been "reactive rather than proactive."
In response, the White House lashed out by saying that Iran's continued "defiance"
of the international community and its failure to halt uranium enrichment justified
Washington's push for a third round of UN sanctions against the country.
"The Iranians only respond to pressure, and when they feel like they're
cornered they're going to try to make some really sort of surface-level concessions
to the international community, give the appearance of trying to cooperate,"
said US State Department spokesman Mitch McCormack, at a department press
McCormack said that Iran had only provided "partial answers" about
their past activities. "I don't think the world is prepared to give Iran
partial credit on the test of... whether or not they're developing nuclear weapons,"
Iran maintains that the IAEA report shows that allegations of an Iranian covert
nuclear program are baseless, and that new sanctions would amount to an "illegal
action," according to the country's new chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed
Asked about Iran's reaction if more UN sanctions were imposed, Jalili said:
"It is unlikely... but if it happens it will have an impact on the modality
that has taken place (with the IAEA) for cooperation and solving issues."
"If Iran wanted to abandon its rights under sanctions, we could have done
it in the past. The Iranian nation will not abandon its right under such a threat,"
he said, according Reuters.
In October, Jalili replaced Ali Larijani as secretary of Iran's National Security
Council and hence chief nuclear negotiator. Jalili is seen as having closer
ideological links to current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than the
more pragmatic Larijani, who is a political rival to the president.
The 10-page report, made available to IPS, focuses on the history of Iran's
nuclear history, its attempts to revitalize its program during the 1980s, and
its decision to acquire uranium enrichment technology on the black market.
While the report's language appears to give a mixed evaluation of Iran's transparency
on the issues, there was "consistency" between what Tehran revealed
and what the IAEA found in its investigation.
And it appears that Iranian officials are attempting to portray the report
as a political victory that vindicates Iran in the face of US-led pressure.
"The report has once again proven that Iran has constantly told the truth
about the peaceful nature of its nuclear programs," said President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad. "All accusations by the West have been neutralized (by the
IAEA report) and as far as we are concerned, the dossier should be closed."
But analysts contend that the IAEA report leaves critical questions unanswered
and that Iran's continued ambiguity in particular about its increasingly
hidden centrifuge program is "not sufficient" to delay action
on a third UN sanctions resolution.
"The stage appears to be set for a continued tug-of-war between the IAEA
and Iran, and to an even greater extent between Iran and the United States,
France, Britain and Germany," said David Albright and Jacqueline Shire
of the Institute for Science and International Security, in a statement.
In a November article for the Arms Control Association, Albright and Shire
wrote that with weakened IAEA inspections, "the invisible or black areas
of Iran's gas centrifuge program are growing." Iran could ostensibly remedy
the ambiguities by adopting the Additional Protocols of the Non-nuclear Proliferation
Treaty and provide assurances of the true scope of its program, which Tehran
maintains is purely for civilian energy purposes.
The Additional Protocols, signed in 1993, boost the IAEA's ability to detect
undeclared nuclear activities, including clandestine projects with no connection
to the civil fuel cycle. While a signatory to the treaty, Iran has not signed
"It will be critical over the coming period not to lose sight of why,
on proliferation grounds, Iran should be discouraged as strongly as possible
from maintaining an enrichment program," said Albright and Shire.
"Simply put, the history of Iran's efforts, the current scale of the enrichment
program, and Iran's determination to continue enriching uranium in the face
of overwhelming international economic and political opposition, raise serious
questions about its intentions."
Another report by European Union chief Javier Solana, expected at the end of
November, is seen as crucial to establishing consensus among the five veto-wielding
members of the Security Council to ramp up sanctions or return to talks aimed
at suspending Iranian enrichment. Russia and China with strong trading
ties to Iran hold two votes.
Since June last year, Solana has been trying to convince Iran to resume talks
on suspending uranium enrichment in exchange for a package of political and
Last week, Iran said it accelerated enrichment activities by fully running
3,000 centrifuges at its nuclear plant in Natanz. Experts say it would likely
take more than 50,000 centrifuges to fuel a reactor.
(Inter Press Service)