US steps up diplomatic efforts on Iran

ElBaradei: We have not seen diversion of nuclear material for weapons purposes.

el baradei IAEA 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
el baradei IAEA 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The US is stepping up its diplomatic efforts to stop Iran's nuclear project in light of Iranian leader's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's announcement that his country was successful in enriching uranium. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged members of the UN Security Council to take action on the issue, though she did not specifically ask the Council members to impose sanctions on Teheran or to change the previously-set timetable which gave Iran 30 days to respond to demands of the international community. "I do think that the Security Council will need to take into consideration this move by Iran and that it will be time when it reconvenes on this case for strong steps to make certain that we maintain the credibility of the international community on this issue", Rice said. White House spokesman Scott McClellan was harsher in his wording and said "it is time for the Security Council to act on the diplomatic front". The Iranian declaration regarding its newly acquired enrichment ability is not seen as leading to any change in the US policy towards Teheran, but is does help reinforce the American view that there is an urgency in dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions and that time for a diplomatic solution is running out. Muhamd ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) arrived in Iran Thursday for meetings with the heads of the Iranian nuclear project. ElBaradei and his team are expected to present the UN Security Council with a report, by April 28th, which will deal with Iranian breaches of the non-proliferation treaty. The head of the IAEA said he could not confirm the Iranian reports about being able to enrich uranium and said this can only be determined after the lab tests done by his team are completed. ElBaradei expressed his hope that the crisis over Iran's nuclear program can be solved in a peaceful manner. While pointing to the Security Council as the address to deal with the Iranian nuclear threats, the US has maintained that the announcement by Iran's president has not yet been verified by sources outside Iran. On Thursday, Ahmadinejad said that Iran would not retreat one iota on its uranium enrichment, signaling there would be no concessions in talks with the head of the UN nuclear agency who arrived to head off a confrontation with the Security Council. "We have not seen diversion of nuclear material for weapons purposes, but the picture is still hazy and not very clear," the UN nuclear chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, told reporters after talks with Iran's nuclear officials. ElBaradei said he had discussed with the Iranians the UN request for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment for a period of time until questions over its nuclear program had been resolved. Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, told the same press conference that such moves were not acceptable. "Such proposals are not very important ones," he said. Hours earlier, President Ahmadinejad had said enrichment was an Iranian red line in the talks with the United Nations. "We won't hold talks with anyone about the right of the Iranian nation (to enrich uranium) and no one has the right to retreat, even one iota," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying Thursday by the official Islamic Republic News Agency. Earlier Thursday, Russia's nuclear chief said that Iran is far from being capable of industrial-scale uranium enrichment, the Interfax news agency reported. Russian Federal Nuclear Energy Agency chief Sergei Kiriyenko said the enrichment facility in the Iranian city of Natanz, equipped with 164 gas centrifuges, could not produce any significant amount of enriched uranium, which can be used to fuel power plants or produce atomic weapons. "These centrifuges allow Iran to conduct laboratory uranium enrichment to a low level in insignificant amounts," Kiriyenko was quoted as saying. "The acquisition of highly enriched uranium is unfeasible today using this method."