(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Israel dismissed a report issued by the UN nuclear watchdog agency on Thursday as "unacceptable," claiming it was further proof that International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei was pro-Iranian.
The long-awaited IAEA report released on Thursday found Iran to be generally truthful about key aspects of its nuclear history, but warned that its knowledge of Teheran's present atomic work was shrinking.
The report also confirmed that Teheran continued to defy the UN Security Council by ignoring its repeated demands to freeze uranium enrichment - a potential pathway to nuclear arms.
"This report is unacceptable," Minister of Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman told The Jerusalem Post. "This is further proof of ElBaradei's one-sided and pro-Iranian position."
Last week, Lieberman said that ElBaradei was "part of the problem, not part of the solution." Despite the dissatisfaction with the report, Lieberman said that Israel still believed it was possible to impose further sanctions on Iran in light of the Islamic Republic's refusal to suspend its enrichment of uranium.
Reflecting that stance, Britain's Foreign Office said in a statement issued shortly after the report that "as the IAEA report now shows that Iran has still not addressed several issues about its nuclear program, we will pursue further Security Council and EU sanctions."
"If Iran wants to restore trust in its program it must come clean on all outstanding issues without delay," the statement said. It also said Teheran must restore broader and stronger inspection rights to IAEA teams and suspend its enrichment activities to avoid such penalties.
The White House, too, said it would continue to push for a third round of sanctions against Iran despite the report. "We believe that selective cooperation is not good enough," White House press secretary Dana Perino said.
Lieberman said that the report made it clear that Iran was still hiding large parts of its nuclear program but took ElBaradei to task for writing in the report that Iran was cooperating and for not recommending a new round of sanctions.
"What does it mean that they are cooperating?" asked Lieberman, whose Strategic Affairs Ministry is tasked with formulating Israeli policy vis-Ã -vis Iran. "The moment that they continue to enrich uranium there is nothing to talk about."
Lieberman said he was hopeful that the United States and France would continue to work to impose new sanctions despite the conciliatory report. He also expressed hope that a report on Iran's nuclear program being compiled by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana would be "more balanced."
A senior Israeli official reacted by saying "as expected, this was a mild report."
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said: "It is clear that the Iranians are in continuing violation of their international obligations under two unanimous UN Security Council resolutions. The international community must act now and send a clear message to the leadership in Teheran that this is unacceptable and the consequences for continuing violations will be forthcoming."
Israeli officials have publicly criticized ElBaradei over recent weeks, fearing that his report would play into Iranian hands by allowing them more time to push ahead with their nuclear program. Jerusalem feared that any report that praised Iranian cooperation would jeopardize efforts to galvanize support for a third round of sanctions.
Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz noted on Wednesday that Russia and China were looking for an excuse to avoid further sanctions.
Publication of the report emboldened Iran, with the country's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili saying that it proved accusations that Teheran was pursuing nuclear weapons were baseless and that new sanctions against the country would be wrong.
He said Teheran has answered all the questions by the agency and made "good progress" in cooperating with it. In light of the IAEA report, "many accusations are now baseless," Jalili said, referring to US claims that Teheran was seeking to build nuclear weapons. "Those powers who base their accusations on this I hope will reconsider what they say."
Jalili insisted Iran had an irrefutable right to its nuclear program. "Iran has shown it is working within the framework of the law but at the same time, we want our [nuclear] rights," Jalili said. "We have done everything to have a peaceful nuclear program."
Much of the 10-page report made available to the press focused on the history of Iran's black-market procurements and past development of its enrichment technology - and the agency appeared to be giving Teheran a pass on that issue, repeatedly saying it concludes that "Iran's statements are consistent with...information available to the agency."
At the same time, a senior UN official acknowledged that the agency remained in the dark about Iran's present work with new and more modern enrichment technologies that would allow it to enrich uranium at far greater speed and volume than with the outmoded machines the agency is monitoring.
Mark Weiss and AP contributed to this report.
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