Iran: IAEA report proves we're peaceful

But UN agency says Iran hiding program's full scope; urges Teheran to clarify role of explosives expert.

Natanz 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Natanz 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Iran said a report released by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Friday had confirmed its nuclear program was peaceful and vowed to resist political pressure to change it, Reuters reported on Saturday. "The report emphasized ... that Iran's nuclear activities are peaceful," Iran's envoy to IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh reportedly told the Fars news agency on Saturday. "It shows Iran has continued its cooperation with the agency ... but at the same time will not accept any political pressure to take measures beyond its legal commitments," he said. But on Friday, IAEA officials said Iran was stonewalling the agency about "possible military dimensions" to its suspect nuclear program, urging the regime to clarify the mysterious role of a foreign explosives expert and shed light on other issues. In its latest report, the International Atomic Energy Agency said it has pressed the Islamic Republic to clarify its uranium enrichment activities and reassure the world that it's not trying to build an atomic weapon. Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and geared solely toward generating electricity. The United States and key allies contend the country is covertly trying to build an atomic weapon. Ahead of September 2 six-power talks on Iran - and a key meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation board a week after that - the IAEA acknowledged that Teheran has been producing nuclear fuel at a slower rate and has allowed UN inspectors broader access to its main nuclear complex in the southern city of Natanz. But the Vienna-based agency delivered a blunt assessment: "Iran has not suspended its enrichment-related activities." "There remain a number of outstanding issues which give rise to concerns and which need to be clarified to exclude the existence of possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program," said the text, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press. It said the IAEA "does not consider that Iran has adequately addressed the substance of the issues, having focused instead on the style and form ... and providing limited answers and simple denials." The report raised the specter of harsher international sanctions against Iran for not answering lingering questions about its nuclear activities. US President Barack Obama has given Teheran something of an ultimatum: Stop enriching uranium, which - if done at a high level - can produce fissile material for the core of a nuclear weapon - or face harsher penalties. In exchange, it could get trade benefits from the six countries engaged in the talks: the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia. This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Iran that if it doesn't respond, it could face stronger sanctions in the energy and financial sectors. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, meanwhile, suggested unspecified "severe" new sanctions against Iran if it continues its nuclear activities. Despite the pressure, senior UN officials said Friday that Iran has been feeding uranium ore into its 8,300 centrifuges at a reduced rate, suggesting that sanctions already in place may be hampering its program. "We need further explanations," said a Western diplomat, declining to be identified because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the confidential report. The UN Security Council has imposed sanctions against Iran three times since 2006 for its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment. The sanctions grew from fears that Iran is using the pretext of building a peaceful nuclear energy program as a guise to eventually make weapons-grade enriched uranium. The country has also been placed on an international watch list to help limit the importation of nuclear materials, which could make it difficult to procure enough uranium oxide to feed its enrichment program.