United States and Israel commend IAEA censure of Iran

Iranian lawmaker We may

Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
The US and Israel expressed satisfaction over the weekend with what officials from both countries termed "a growing momentum" of international pressure on Iran to halt activities that would enable it to construct nuclear weapons. On Friday, the IAEA resolution censuring Iran passed by a 25-3 margin, demanding that Teheran immediately freeze construction of its newly revealed nuclear facility and heed Security Council resolutions to stop uranium enrichment. US officials said that the UN agency's censure of Iran demonstrated international resolve to pressure Teheran if it doesn't comply with international demands concerning its nuclear program. "We hope that the Board of Governors' resolution reinforces the message that we're committed to putting together a package of consequences if we don't find a willing partner. We hope Iran takes note of that clear message," said a senior US administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity. Israel's Foreign Ministry welcomed the IAEA resolution, noting that it was the first in over three years that the agency has adopted against Iran. But it called for real action on the part of other international bodies to give teeth to international demands on Iran. "The Iranians are still unconvinced that [international] threats and declarations will lead to sanctions," a senior Israeli diplomatic official said on condition of anonymity. "They think they can continue to squeeze this lemon. This reflects an internal debate in the Iranian [regime] over when to give in [to international pressure]," he added. The IAEA resolution was "a welcome development" because "we believe it strengthens the European and American capability for increasing pressure. The resolution is a real message to the Iranians that the international community is serious." The Foreign Ministry urged world powers to make certain the demands on Iran "did not stop with just rhetoric," according to ministry spokesman Yossi Levy. "There are two elements that will decide if international pressure is successful," Levy said. "One is an unbending schedule [for diplomatic talks], and two, a price tag for every Iranian violation. When these are in place, the diplomatic process will have a momentum that will ensure the sanctions on the Iranian regime are painful and effective." According to the spokesman, Israel views the IAEA resolution as proof "that the international community is increasingly coming to the understanding that a nuclear Iran is an extremely dangerous prospect." The 25 members of the 35-nation board that backed the resolution included the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, marking a rare measure of unity from the six world powers on Iran. Moscow and Beijing have traditionally cautioned against efforts to punish Iran for its defiance over its nuclear program, either preventing new Security Council sanctions or watering down their potency. The IAEA resolution criticized Iran for defying a UN Security Council ban on uranium enrichment - the source of both nuclear fuel and the fissile core of warheads. It also censured Iran for secretly building a uranium enrichment facility, known as Fordo, and demanded that it immediately suspend further construction. The resolution noted that IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei cannot confirm that Teheran's nuclear program is exclusively geared toward peaceful uses, and expressed "serious concern" that Iranian stonewalling of an IAEA probe means "the possibility of military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program" cannot be excluded. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs released a statement saying that, "Our patience and that of the international community is limited, and time is running out. If Iran refuses to meet its obligations, then it will be responsible for its own growing isolation and the consequences." Senior US officials who briefed reporters Friday wouldn't specify that time frame more than to refer to US President Barack Obama's own previous references to reviewing the situation by the end of the year. "As you get closer to the end of the year and the point at which we've made clear we think judgments are going to need to be made," an official said. Officials also were circumspect about what the "consequences" might consist of, but noted that the US has been in touch with international partners on both tracks of the two-pronged approach of diplomatic engagement combined with a threat of pressure points, generally understood to be stiffer sanctions. "We haven't gotten positive or constructive answers from the Iranians on either of those last two points, and that makes it very difficult to sustain any process of engagement when you have what we and our partners believe to be fair and creative opportunities being put on the table," said one senior official, though he noted that international offers to Iran in keeping with negotiations remain on the table. The US officials also indicated they agreed with comments from ElBaradei that he could report no movement on the most pressing issues connected to Iran's nuclear program and that the agency had effectively reached a dead end unless Iran engaged fully with it. One official called ElBaradei's comments "a mark of growing international impatience." He added that the US had been involved in intensive diplomacy with the IAEA and other international partners in recent weeks leading to Friday's censure. In Teheran, a conservative Iranian legislator warned Saturday that his country may pull out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty after the UN resolution censure - a move that could seriously undermine world attempts to prevent Iran from developing atomic weapons. "The parliament, in its first reaction to this illegal and politically motivated resolution, can consider the issue of withdrawing from the NPT," Mohammad Karamirad was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency, referring to the treaty. "The parliament ... [also] can block the entry of IAEA inspectors to the country." Karamirad, a senior lawmaker and member of the Iranian parliament's national security committee, does not speak for the government, but his statements often reflect the government's thinking. His threat could be a tactic to warn the West of possible consequences if it pursues further action against Iran, such as strengthened sanctions. Another hardline lawmaker, Hossein Ebrahimi, was quoted by IRNA as saying that Iran's parliament would discuss the IAEA resolution on Sunday and would make a decision on how to react. Iran's parliament has issued similar warnings in the past, most recently in 2006 when some lawmakers threatened to pull the country out of the nonproliferation treaty during another time of increased UN pressure over Teheran's nuclear program. Iran backed down, and the government has said that it has no intention of withdrawing from the treaty, which aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology. Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's chief delegate to the UN nuclear agency, was defiant Saturday in the face of the agency's fresh demands, saying on state television that Iran will limit its cooperation with the UN watchdog to its treaty obligations and will not cooperate beyond that. "Our first reaction to this resolution is that they [the IAEA] should not expect us to do what we did several times in the past few months when we cooperated beyond our obligations to remove ambiguities," Soltanieh said. He added that the country's nuclear activities will not be interrupted by resolutions from the UN nuclear agency's board, the UN Security Council or even the threat of military strikes against the facilities. Ali Shirzadian, spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said his agency is ready to proceed with its nuclear projects. "Technically speaking, we are fully prepared to produce fuel required for the Teheran reactor. To begin this, we are waiting for the order from top authorities," Shirzadian told the government-run Borna news agency. AP contributed to this report.