IAEA fails to reach deal on 'Iranian bomb research'

Netanyahu warns that Tehran is accelerating nuclear drive while "totally ignoring" international demands.

Netanyahu R370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Netanyahu R370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned on Friday that Iran’s nuclear drive was accelerating and that Tehran had failed to heed the international call to stop its program.
He spoke on the same day that the International Atomic Energy Agency said it failed to strike a deal with Iran, which aimed at allaying concerns about suspected nuclear weapons research by Tehran, a setback in efforts to resolve the standoff diplomatically before any Israeli or US military action.
In Jerusalem, Netanyahu said, “Just yesterday, we received additional proof of the fact that Iran is continuing to make accelerated progress toward achieving nuclear weapons while totally ignoring international demands.”
Netanyahu made his comments as he met with US Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Michigan), who is visiting the region.
On Thursday, diplomatic sources said Iran had installed many more uranium enrichment centrifuges at its Fordow underground site.
While the new machines are not yet operating, the move reaffirmed Iranian defiance of international demands on it to suspend enrichment and may strengthen the Israeli belief that toughened sanctions and concerted diplomacy are failing to make the Islamic Republic change course.
“The discussions today were intensive, but important differences remain between Iran and the UN that prevented agreement,” Herman Nackaerts, the IAEA’s chief inspector, told journalists after about seven hours of talks with an Iranian delegation in Vienna. “At the moment we have no plans for another meeting.”
Little headway appeared to have been made on the IAEA’s most urgent request – access for its inspectors to the Parchin military site where the agency believes Iran has performed explosives tests relevant for developing a nuclear weapons capability.
Iran’s ambassador to the Viennabased IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said that “undoubtedly some progress.” was made. Differences remained, however, “because it is a very complex issue.”
“Issues related to national security of a member state are something very delicate,” the veteran Iranian diplomat said. “But I have to say that we are moving forward... and we are going to continue this process so that we at the end of the day will have a framework agreed [upon] by both sides.”
Soltanieh had said before the talks began: “Both sides are trying to bridge the gap.”
The diplomatic sources who revealed the expansion of centrifuge capacity at Fordow also said satellite imagery indicated Iran had used a brightly colored tent-like structure to cover a building at Parchin, increasing concern about a possible removal of evidence of illicit past nuclear work there.
In Washington, an official of President Barack Obama’s administration said the new centrifuges, while concerning, would not significantly change the amount of time Iran would need to “break out” of its treaty obligations and build a nuclear device. “This work... does not build confidence in their intent and it further demonstrates their failure to fulfill their obligations,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “But it is also not a game-changer.”
Asked about the outcome of the Vienna meeting, a Western diplomat accredited to the IAEA said: “As dismal as expected.”
Iran, the world’s No. 5 oil exporter, insists it wants nuclear energy for more electricity to serve a rapidly growing population, not nuclear weapons, and has threatened wideranging reprisals if attacked.
Nackaerts said before the meeting that the broader goal was a deal on greater, overall inspector access to answer the UN watchdog’s questions about possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program.
It was the first meeting between the two sides since discussions in early June petered out inconclusively, dashing previous hopes that an accord might be on the cards.
Friday’s talks were separate from Tehran’s negotiations with six world powers that have made little progress since resuming in April after a 15- month hiatus, but the focus on suspicions about Iran’s nuclear ambitions means they are closely linked.
Washington has said there is still time for diplomatic pressure to work in pressing Iran to curb its enrichment program, which is the immediate priority of the six powers – the United States, Britain, Russia, China, France and Germany.
Tehran’s refusal to limit and open up its atomic activity to unfettered IAEA inspections, which could determine whether it truly is purely peaceful, has led to harsher punitive sanctions and louder talk about military action.
Western diplomats had expected no breakthrough on Friday but said Iran could offer a concession to inspectors – who want access to sites, officials and documents – in hopes of blunting their quarterly report on Iran that is due this week.
In so doing, Iran would also seek to deflect a planned Western move to have the 35-nation IAEA board of governors, meeting next month, formally rebuke Tehran over its failure to cooperate with the agency’s inquiry.
Any Iranian concession should therefore be treated with skepticism, one diplomat accredited to the IAEA said.
The IAEA’s immediate priority remains access to Parchin, even though Western diplomats say it may now have been purged of any evidence of nuclear weapons research, possibly carried out a decade ago.
Citing satellite images, diplomats said last week that Iran has demolished some small buildings and moved earth at Parchin.
Diplomatic sources said the building believed to be housing an explosives chamber – if it is still there – had been “wrapped” with scaffolding and tarpaulin, hiding any sanitization or other activity there from satellite cameras.
Iran says Parchin, about 30 km.
southeast of Tehran, is a conventional military facility and has dismissed allegations aired about it as “ridiculous.”
It says a broad framework agreement for how the IAEA should conduct its inquiry is needed before possibly allowing access to Parchin.