Iran to boycott Middle East nuclear talks meeting

Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to IAEA makes announcement after UN nuclear watchdog passes resolution rebuking Tehran over nuclear program; White House welcomes the int'l agency's move saying it will increase pressure.

Iran's IAEA envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Iran's IAEA envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
VIENNA - Iran will not attend a rare meeting for Middle East countries next week to discuss efforts to free the world of nuclear weapons, an Iranian official said, signaling worsening ties between the UN atomic agency and Iran.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, made the announcement after the 35-nation governing board of the IAEA adopted a resolution on Friday rebuking Tehran over its nuclear program.
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Soltanieh lashed out at IAEA chief Yukiya Amano, who convened the November 21-22 talks in Vienna for countries in the Middle East and other agency members, as "not professional" and said he did not believe the meeting would be successful.
Amano issued a report last week which angered Iran by saying the Islamic state appeared to have worked on designing a nuclear weapon and that secret research may continue.
Soltanieh said Amano had "not even talked about Israeli nuclear capabilities," referring to the Jewish state's assumed atomic arsenal.
"How can we positively respond to the invitation of Mr Amano?" he told reporters.
"While we are a strong proponent of a nuclear weapons-free zone we don't think that the meeting ... will be fruitful and successful. Therefore I must say we will not participate."
Responding to the resolution Soltanieh said: "The only immediate effect (of the resolution) is a further strengthening of determination of the Iranian nation to continue its nuclear activities for peaceful purposes without any compromise."
"We will not suspend our enrichment activities and our work for even a second," he told reporters, making clear his country would not back down in the dispute with major powers.
Meanwhile, the White House welcomed the IAEA resolution, saying it would increase pressure on Tehran to abandon its drive for an atomic bomb.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the resolution had exposed "the hollowness of Iran's claims" that its nuclear program was for purely civilian purposes.
"The United States will continue this pressure until Iran chooses to depart from its current path of international isolation, both in concert with our partners as well as unilaterally," he said in a statement.
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