WASHINGTON – In the midst of a two-day International Atomic Energy Agency meeting, the nuclear watchdog organization’s board of governors overcame disagreements to hammer out a joint resolution Thursday, slamming Tehran for its pursuit of nuclear weaponry.
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The so-called G-5-plus-1 powers – the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany – called on Iran to open its doors to weapons inspectors, in a draft report seen by Reuters Thursday.
The resolution, which the IAEA board will debate on Friday, is likely to face a vote in the 35-nation body. The agency’s actions are likely to stop short of referring Iran to the United Nations Security Council, one possible outcome fielded in light of the recent IAEA report on Tehran’s nuclear development.
During the Thursday meeting in Vienna, agency head Yukiya Amano stressed the need for Iran to engage in serious talks and said he wanted to send a high-level mission to the country to tackle increasing concerns about the nature of its nuclear activities.
“It is clear that Iran has a case to answer,” he told a news conference on the sidelines of the board meeting. “We have to alert the world before nuclear proliferation actually takes place.”
Iran says it is enriching uranium only for nuclear power plants, not weapons, dismissing the intelligence information in the IAEA report – obtained mainly from Western states – as fabricated, and accusing the agency of pro-Western bias.
Amano said he had written to the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Fereydoun Abbasi- Davani, earlier this month to suggest the visit, which would air issues raised by the report.
Amano said he hoped a “suitable date” could be agreed upon soon for his team’s visit to the Islamic Republic, which permits IAEA inspections of declared nuclear sites but since 2008 has stonewalled an agency investigation into “alleged studies” applicable to atom bombs.
“Throughout the past three years, we have obtained additional information which gives us a fuller picture of Iran’s nuclear program and increases our concerns about possible military dimensions,” Amano told the board.
“The information indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device,” he said, in his bluntest public statement so far on the contested nuclear program.
Diplomats described the powers’ draft as a compromise text between Western states, which would have preferred tougher language, and Russia and China, which resisted.
It expressed “deep and increasing concern” about Iran’s activities and called on it to open up fully to UN inspectors, according to a draft seen by Reuters.
The text urged Iran “to engage seriously and without preconditions in talks” to address nuclear concerns, and asked Amano to report back to the board’s next meeting in March.
It stopped short of actions with teeth, such as reporting Iran once again to the Security Council, which has imposed four rounds of sanctions on the major oil producer since 2006. Russia and China oppose any more extensive measures.
But the fact that the six big powers ironed out an IAEA resolution will be welcomed in the West after Amano’s report prompted Russia to complain that it was politicized and dimmed chances of a negotiated solution to the Iran nuclear dispute.
Moscow’s stance exposed big power divisions over how to deal with Iran.
Western states seized on the IAEA report to try to step up pressure on Tehran in the form of farther-reaching economic sanctions.
“It does the job,” one senior Western diplomat said about the resolution. “It is always a compromise, but we want it to have the backing of as many of the board members as possible. That is the aim.”
On Wednesday, the US State Department said it had been in consultation with fellow P-5+1 member states, with State Department Spokesman Mark Toner saying that “the result that we’re looking for is one that demonstrates to Iran very clearly and unequivocally the international community’s resolve, as well as its very serious concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.”
Iran prepared in advance of the IAEA meeting Thursday, with Iranian Press TV reporting that the country’s envoy to the organization, Ali Asghar Soltaniyeh, had called on Amano to make corrections to his latest report on the nuclear program.
Soltaniyeh wrote a letter to Amano Wednesday, in which he complained that the agency head had violated the IAEA staff regulation and its statute by distributing confidential parts of the report to a number of countries prior to its official release.
He also complained that the report was supposed to have had restricted distribution, but that instead Amano had “already distributed the confidential text of the annex days before 8 November, 2011, to certain countries including the United States of America, France, and the United Kingdom.”