Reuters: Iran on Tuesday accepted a compromise for the agenda of a global meeting on how to fix the troubled nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, averting a collapse of the session after a week of deadlock. By Mark Heinrich
VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran on Tuesday accepted a compromise for the agenda of a global meeting on how to fix the troubled nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, averting a collapse of the session after a week of deadlock.
Tehran had blocked consensus for the program over a phrase “reaffirming the need for full compliance” with the NPT, calling this a blank check for Western powers to bully it over its nuclear activity to the exclusion of other treaty issues.
Iran, which denies Western charges of noncompliance with NPT safeguards but has been hit with U.N. sanctions, agreed to a footnote in the agenda text stipulating that “compliance” meant “with all provisions” of the treaty.
The 130 NPT member states at the meeting then adopted the agenda by consensus, prompting relieved applause in the chamber.
The footnote was tailored to assure Iran that debate would also push industrialized nations with atomic arsenals to do more to heed NPT commitments to do away with them.
The Islamic Republic rejects as unfounded Western suspicions that it is trying to build atom bombs behind the facade of a civilian uranium enrichment project. But it has not fully cooperated with a U.N. nuclear watchdog probe of its program.
Iran’s acceptance of the compromise meant that the two-week gathering, due to run until Friday, could start substantive debate on setting priorities for follow-up meetings leading to the next decision-making NPT Review Conference in 2010.
The NPT binds members without nuclear bombs not to acquire them, guarantees the right of all members to nuclear energy for peaceful ends, and obligates the original five nuclear powers from the post-World War Two era to dismantle arsenals in stages.
Iran’s envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh said Tehran accepted South Africa’s proposal as “a display of good will and flexibility”
The U.S. delegation chief said “Iran’s obstruction” had cut seriously into time needed for meaningful discussions.
“Nevertheless we are pleased this point has finally arrived and that in the face of pressure from a united international community, Iran has backed down in return for a restatement of what has been obvious all along,” Christopher Ford said.
Some diplomats and analysts said Iran’s delay dismayed many fellow members in the Non-Aligned Movement of developing nations and that it relented under their prodding.
“NAM want to raise pressure on nuclear weapons states but worried that Iran’s (agenda) shenanigans could prevent that, weaken respect for the NPT and play into the hands of the anti-multilateralist faction in Washington,” said Rebecca Johnson of the London-based Acronym Institute, which monitors the NPT’s performance.
Disarmament campaigners say Iran, as well as North Korea which bolted from the NPT in 2003 and detonated a nuclear device last year, pose serious threats to the treaty’s integrity.
But they say plans by nuclear-armed states to upgrade their weapons, even if that means reducing their overall number, and keep them as symbols of strength have eroded respect for the NPT and may spur some nations in unstable regions to circumvent it.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, speaking in Oslo, said Tehran did not see the need for nuclear arms.
“This is our experience, this is our background, and the countries who are the first users of nuclear weapons and who are testing now the latest innovation of nuclear weapons are claiming that Iran should not have nuclear weapons,” he said.
(Additional reporting by John Acher in Oslo)