Iran gets support for ban on nuclear plant strikes

118-nation Nonaligned Movement backs Teheran in letter submitted to IAEA in advance of conference.

Ahmadinejad Natanz 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Ahmadinejad Natanz 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Iran, whose nuclear facilities are under threat of possible Israeli military strikes, has enlisted the support of more than 100 nonaligned nations in its push for a ban on such attacks, according to documents shared with The Associated Press. The 118-nation Nonaligned Movement backed Teheran in a letter submitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency endorsing Iran's plan to submit a resolution on the topic when IAEA nations meet next month. While Iran said the language of any resolution will be kept general, the move was seen as being directed against Israel and to a lesser extent the US. Both nations - Israel more overtly - have not ruled out an attack as a last resort if the international community fails to persuade Teheran to freeze its nuclear activities. Iran has defied three sets of UN Security Council sanctions aimed at pressuring it to mothball its uranium enrichment. It also is resisting an IAEA probe into reports it had drafted plans and conducted experiments for a nuclear weapons program. Teheran insists its enrichment program is geared only toward generating fuel to produce nuclear energy, not nuclear arms. The IAEA's 150-nation general conference convenes September 14. The annual conference regularly pits Israel backed by the US and its other Western nations, against Islamic states and other nonaligned countries seeking to censure Israel and its nuclear secrecy. The Iranian proposal was revealed to the AP last week. That and the nonaligned support, outlined in a letter shared with the AP on Wednesday, aims to give Islamic nations additional leverage at the conference. The IAEA conference already passed a resolution in September 1990. But Iran argues a new resolution is called for because the use of nuclear power - and the corresponding international damage that any attacks would cause - have greatly increased since then. Israeli warplanes have attacked nuclear sites before, and Iran appeared to be trying to ramp up diplomatic pressure on the Jewish state in hopes of reducing the chances of an attack. The country's war planes crippled Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981 to prevent Saddam Hussein from the means of developing nuclear weapons. More recently, an Israeli air attack nearly two years ago destroyed what the US says was a nearly finished nuclear reactor in Syria that would have been able to produce plutonium when completed. Still, Iran's chief delegate to the IAEA said Israel was not the main concern "We ignore the Israelis," Ali Asghar Soltanieh told the AP. "Nobody dares to threaten or attack Iran." Most recently, an Israeli submarine believed to have the capability of carrying nuclear-tipped missiles last month returned to the Mediterranean after crossing to the Red Sea in the direction of Iran, a mission seen as a warning. Also, Israel has held air force maneuvers that were described unofficially in Israel as mock attacks on Iranian targets. US Vice President Joe Biden last month suggested on a talk show that Washington would not stand in Israel's way if it chose to attack Iran to scuttle its nuclear ambitions. And the Obama administration has not taken the Bush era option of a such a strike by US forces off the table. Still, Israeli strategists face more formidable odds than they did against Iraq or Syria if contemplating any attack on Iran. Its main known nuclear site at Natanz, a city about 300 miles (500 kilometers) south of Teheran, is far underground in a cavernous fortified hall where thousands of centrifuges churn out enriched uranium, a potential core for nuclear warheads. Its above ground facilities - the Bushehr light-water reactor and the Arak heavy water reactor under construction - are ringed by anti-aircraft defenses.