Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
Iran, U.N. Schedule Nuclear Probe Meeting
International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano on Monday said his organization would meet with Iran later this week in a bid to finalize plans for executing a probe of possible weapon-related Iranian atomic activities, Reuters reported (see GSN, June 1).
Iran has declared such arrangements to be a prerequisite to any IAEA visit to the nation's Parchin armed forces facility, which the U.N. nuclear watchdog suspects to have housed testing relevant to nuclear-bomb preparation. Tehran insists its nuclear efforts are purely peaceful.
"I wish to inform the board that a meeting between Iran and the agency has been scheduled for June 8 in Vienna," Amano was quoted as saying to his agency's 35-country Board of Governors (Fredrik Dahl, Reuters I, June 4).
The governing board launched its latest session on Monday, according to an IAEA press release (International Atomic Energy Agency release, June 4). Opening the Parchin installation to international scrutiny was expected to be a key focus of the event, Agence France-Presse reported on Sunday (Agence France-Presse I/Yahoo!News, June 3).
"I invite Iran to sign and implement the structured approach document as soon as possible and to provide early access to the Parchin site," Reuters quoted Amano as saying in reference to the probe arrangements. "I was assured that agreement on the structured approach would be expedited and that the remaining differences between Iran and the agency would not be an obstacle to reaching agreement" (Dahl, Reuters I).
Pictures taken from space of the Parchin complex show "the use of water, demolishing of buildings, removing fences and moving soil," Amano said. Observers have said this work might be evidence of an effort to eliminate proof of undeclared nuclear activities (Fredrik Dahl, Reuters II, June 4).
Tehran has not delivered sufficient assistance for the U.N. office to provide "credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities" in Iran, Amano added.
"I urge Iran to take steps towards the full implementation of all relevant obligations in order to establish international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program," he said in a Reuters report.
The Persian Gulf regional power appears unlikely to comply with any deal it might negotiate with the Vienna, Austria-based agency, Western envoys have suggested. The U.N. organization has accused Iranian officials of delaying for nearly four years its probe of suspect atomic efforts in the country.
By moving to potentially bolster its assistance to the nuclear watchdog, Tehran might be seeking additional leverage in a diplomatic process intended to resolve longstanding international concerns over its atomic efforts, according to the envoys. Iranian diplomats are scheduled to convene in Moscow this month with counterparts from China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States; the June 18-19 gathering would follow a May discussion in Baghdad and an April session in Istanbul, Turkey.
Procedural matters threaten to become a tool for special interests, according to Iran's envoy to the agency .
"Certain elements are trying to distort the constructive atmosphere of cooperation between Iran and the agency through political controversy," Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh said (Dahl, Reuters I).
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday said the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany would soon learn whether Tehran intends to act substantively to assuage international fears that its atomic activities are geared toward bomb development.
"We will continue to push forward on the P-5+1, but we are looking for concrete actions and we will know by the next meeting in Moscow in just a few weeks whether Iran is prepared to take such actions," Clinton said. "So there are lots of ... concerns that we continue to have about their intentions, but we will judge them by their actions and we will determine whether those actions are sufficient to meet their obligations" (Reuters III, June 1).
"We will know by the next meeting in Moscow in a few weeks whether Iran is prepared to take those actions," the Associated Press quoted her as saying (Bradley Klapper, Associated Press I/Boston Globe, June 1).
U.S. Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen on Monday said Washington is prepared to ramp up economic penalties on the Middle Eastern nation if no significant development emerges from the upcoming meeting, RIA Novosti reported.
“If we don't get a breakthrough in Moscow there is no question we will continue to ratchet up the pressure," Cohen told Haaretz.
"The sanctions are having an impact on Iran, but I also recognize that more needs to be done. And we are intent on doing more," the official said (RIA Novosti I, June 4).
Cohen said Washington and Tel Aviv were discussing potential additional punitive measures; the remark suggested an ongoing U.S. effort to delay a potential Israeli armed offensive against atomic installations in Iran, according to Reuters.
"We have today and over the past years had very close cooperation with the Israeli government across a range of our sanctions programs," the Treasury Department official stated. "They are creative. They are supportive and we will continue to consult with the Israelis" (Dan Williams, Reuters IV, June 4).
Meanwhile, a staffer for Russian President Vladimir Putin said the leader would confer with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a high-level conference slated to take place in Beijing on Wednesday and Thursday, RIA Novosti reported.
Yuri Ushakov said the encounter would enable the Russian president to “feel the heat surrounding the Iranian problem and see how this issue is perceived in Tehran.”
“We weren’t too happy with the results of the last round of talks, but we determined the mutual readiness to continue the discussion,” the official added.
At the multilateral gathering scheduled for later this month, Moscow would “promote the thought that Iran’s right to develop peaceful energy under the oversight of the International Atomic Energy Agency should be approved” Ushakov said (RIA Novosti II, June 3).
Iran has faced increasing Russian pressure over its atomic activities since early 2009, Voice of America on Friday quoted specialists as saying. Moscow in that period endorsed a fourth Security Council economic measure aimed at further leaning on Tehran over its nuclear program, the news agency notes.
"The U.S.-Russian position on Iran and the challenge of Iran's program, officials within the administration tell me, is as close as it has ever been," said Robert Legvold, an international relations expert with Columbia University.
"The Russians are very antsy (nervous) about" possible military action against Iran, Legvold said, "whether it's Israel that executes it or whether it is some kind of a U.S. option, or the U.S. with Israel together."
Russia has persisted in emphasizing "the diplomatic option rather than further tightening of sanctions," he added (Andre deNesnera, Voice of America, June 1).
French President Francois Hollande said he and Putin had "expressed our frustration about the failed meeting between the six powers and Iran in Baghdad," Interfax reported on Saturday.
"Unfortunately, Iran did not make concessions," Hollande said after speaking with Putin on Friday.
The French president said he wanted this month's talks in Moscow to "help obtain guarantees of transparency of Iran's rejection of nuclear weapons."
"We, France and Russia, are putting pressure to move ahead toward these results. I object to any country's freely gaining access to nuclear weapons based on civilian nuclear technologies. This destabilizes the situation in the region," he said (Interfax, June 2).
Top European Union officials gathered in Russia on Sunday for a high-level exchange with Putin, AFP reported (Benoit Finck, Agence France-Presse II/Google News, June 3). Iran's atomic efforts were an anticipated focus of the two-day event, United Press International reported on Saturday (United Press International, June 2).
This month's multilateral meeting in the Russian capital would yield "a final conclusion regarding mutual cooperation," the secretary of Iran's powerful Expediency Council said on Thursday.
"That the West and the U.S. have taken the nuclear negotiations with Iran very seriously and are attempting for the talks to reach a conclusion is a positive and winning card for our establishment," Mohsen Rezai added in comments reported by the nation's Fars News Agency (Fars News Agency, June 1).
A potential Israeli strike would prompt a "lightning" reaction by Tehran, AP quoted Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying on Sunday.
“Should they take any wrong step, any inappropriate move, it will fall on their heads like lightning,” Khamenei said.
“The obstacles enemies are creating in our path won’t have any effect. Sanctions are ineffective. Sanctions can’t stop the Iranian nation from moving forward,” he added. “The only effect these unilateral and multilateral sanctions have on the Iranian nation is that they deepen hatred and animosity toward the West in the heart of our people” (Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press II/Washington Times, June 3).
"What Americans and westerners do is idiotic. They magnify the nuclear issue to cover up their own problems," Reuters quoted Khamenei as saying. He was citing financial problems in Europe and the United States.
"They are deceitfully using the term nuclear weapons," he added.
Clinton minimized the significance of Khamenei's statement.
"I don't draw any conclusions from that statement with respect to the potential success of the talks in Moscow," the top U.S. diplomat said.
"We look forward to seeing what the Iranians actually bring to the table in Moscow. We want to see a diplomatic resolution," Clinton said. "We now have an opportunity to achieve it and we hope it is an opportunity that is not lost, for everyone's sake" (Marcus George, Reuters V, June 3).
All U.S. installations in the Middle East "are within the range of Iran's missiles, a senior military adviser to Khamenei said on Friday.
"The U.S. military forces in the region are highly vulnerable,” Iran's Press TV quoted Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim-Safavi as saying (Press TV, June 2).
Elsewhere, a number of acting and retired U.S. government insiders have credited the United States with developing the Stuxnet malware in an effort to prevent the emergence of a nuclear-armed Iran without resorting to military force, Reuters reported on Friday (see GSN, June 1). The program was known to have damaged Iranian uranium enrichment operations.
Stuxnet delayed Iran's atomic progress by roughly half a decade, according to one insider knowledgeable of the software's first development stages under then-President George W. Bush.
“It bought us time. First, it was to get across from one administration to the next without having the issue blow up. And then it was to give Obama a little more time to come up with alternatives, through the sanctions, et cetera,” the insider stated (Andrea Shalal-Esa, Reuters VI/MyBroadband, June 1).
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