The United States warned on Thursday it could seek U.N. Security Council intervention if Iran fails by March to begin collaborating substantively with a deadlocked international probe into its nuclear activities, Reuters reported.
Several 2012 meetings between Tehran and the U.N. nuclear watchdog have failed to yield a plan for resolving questions over possible Iranian nuclear weapon-related experimentation. Iran contends its atomic efforts are strictly peaceful and has demanded records forming the basis for the agency's suspicions over arms activities.
"If by March Iran has not begun substantive cooperation with the IAEA, the United States will work with other board members to pursue appropriate board action, and would urge the board to consider reporting this lack of progress to the U.N. Security Council," said Robert Wood, the chief U.S. delegate to the Vienna, Austria-based organization.
"Iran cannot be allowed to indefinitely ignore its obligations ... Iran must act now, in substance," Wood added in prepared remarks.
It is uncertain if a potential bid to refer the stalemate to the Security Council would win support from Beijing or Moscow, according to Reuters. The international body to date has adopted four sanctions resolutions aimed at pressuring Tehran to address global fears over Iranian nuclear efforts.
A new session on setting the terms for the IAEA probe is scheduled for Dec. 13 in Tehran. Some potential exists for the gathering to yield progress, suggested Wood, while also noting his "doubts about the sincerity of Iran."
Tehran's "procrastination" on the matter cannot be tolerated, the European Union stated. The 27-nation bloc called for Iran to "act now, in a substantive way, to address the serious and continuing international concerns on its nuclear program."
Iran's envoy to the U.N. organization dismissed the U.S. and EU statements as "political noise" and "pressure."
Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh on Thursday reaffirmed his nation's demand for the nuclear agency to "deliver the documents about the [nuclear] allegations against Iran so that Iran will defend itself," Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.
It is unclear if the watchdog could grant the concession, observers indicated. The U.N. group contends the potential move would reveal how it obtained the records, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported.
Advancements still appear possible in the dialogue with Iran, the Associated Press quoted IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano as saying on Thursday.
He added, though, that his organization is “giving high priority for the safety of our inspectors and we are taking all the measures needed to protect them.” The comment marked his first expression of worry for IAEA officials in Iran, according to AP.
The possible coercion is “difficult to define,” Amano said. “We need to protect our inspectors in order that they can discharge their responsibilities.”
Meanwhile, two experts on Wednesday described a "million-fold" quantitative mistake in a chart reported this week to be an indicator of an Iranian nuclear bomb-relevant study. Government specialists were unlikely to make such a slip, they wrote in a commentary published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
"This diagram does nothing more than indicate either slipshod analysis or an amateurish hoax," according to scientists Yousaf Butt and Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. "In any case, the level of scientific sophistication needed to produce such a graph corresponds to that typically found in graduate- or advanced undergraduate-level nuclear physics courses."
The article adds that "the diagram leaked to the Associated Press this week is nothing more than either shoddy sources or shoddy science. In either case, the world can keep calm and carry on."
The commentary raises questions over other evidence used to substantiate IAEA suspicions on Iran's nuclear program, as the chart was reportedly one document cited in a 2011 agency report outlining concerns over "possible military dimensions" to the Iranian activities, according to the London Guardian.
Separately, four informed envoys said diplomatic efforts on the atomic impasse could benefit from Tehran's move to postpone the launch of its Arak heavy-water reactor facility into 2014, Bloomberg reported on Thursday.
The potency of Israel's Iron Dome air defenses could aid in deterring Iran, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Thursday. The equipment reportedly succeeded this month in intercepting a number of rockets fired by Hamas from Gaza; while it could not hit longer-range missiles launched by Iran or by Hezbollah in Lebanon, such weapons could be countered by Israel's developmental David's Sling and Arrow systems, according to Wired magazine.
“The very knowing of the other side that you have such an effective system, especially when we’ll be equipped with many more interceptors, it will change the balance of contemplation on the other side,” Barak said. “It creates a logical kind of deterrent, not a psychological one, because any enemy that tries against Israel is exposed to the effectiveness of our efforts that we’ve seen during in this operation.”
Soltanieh on Friday said any strike against his country could prompt Tehran "to stop the (U.N. nuclear) agency inspections or even in the worse scenario withdraw from the [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty]," Reuters reported.
Responding to Soltanieh's warning, Tel Aviv's envoy to the U.N. nuclear watchdog said he expects Iran would "do it anyhow, in the near future."
"When they make their first nuclear explosion they will have to withdraw, I believe," Ambassador Ehud Azoulay said, adding Tehran appeared to be "following the steps" taken previously by North Korea.
Soltanieh called for the U.N. inquiry on Iran's atomic efforts "to be closed immediately," and for IAEA monitoring to proceed in a "routine" manner. "This is the only way that encourages Iran to show more flexibility in taking voluntary steps," the diplomat stated.
"Iran is master of enrichment technology ... it can easily replace damaged facilities," he added. Still, Tehran is "well prepared to find a negotiated face-saving solution and a breakthrough from the existing stalemate," he continued.
The Iranian ambassador said "Western sanctions have had no effect whatsoever on the enrichment activities."
A Western international relations official said he was "very pessimistic" on the prospects of Iran's planned discussions with the U.N. nuclear watchdog in light of Soltanieh's remarks.
Iran's apparent transfer of soil and other materials to its Parchin armed forces installation hints at plans for further building activities at the site, according to a Thursday analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington. Tehran this year rejected several IAEA bids to send inspectors to the Parchin base, where the U.N. agency believes the government might have previously assembled a tank for performing sensitive combustion studies.
The activities anticipated by analysts would heighten "the level of alteration and further [degrade] the chance of obtaining reliable environmental samples if and when IAEA inspectors gain access to the site," the ISIS analysis states.
In Moscow, Iran's atomic activities were a topic of a Thursday discussion between Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mehdi Akhoundzadeh and his Russian equivalent Sergei Ryabkov, Interfax reported.
The Russian Foreign Ministry stated: "There was a detailed exchange of opinions on the situation surrounding the Iranian nuclear program, the possibility of postponing for 2013 a conference on creating a zone free of nuclear arms or other weapons of mass destruction and delivery vehicles in the Middle East, and on problems related to the Chemical Weapons Convention."