AFP: Iran and the UN atomic energy agency on Tuesday agreed on a timetable for Tehran to clarify outstanding concerns about its contested nuclear programme, amid Western threats of further UN sanctions. by Farhad Pouladi
TEHRAN, Aug 21, 2007 (AFP) – Iran and the UN atomic energy agency on Tuesday agreed on a timetable for Tehran to clarify outstanding concerns about its contested nuclear programme, amid Western threats of further UN sanctions.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) deputy director general Olli Heinonen and top Iranian national security official Javad Vaeedi announced the agreement after two days of talks in Tehran.
“We have now in front of us an agreed working plan, how to implement it and we have a timeline for the implementation. We talked about the details and the steps to be taken,” said Heinonen.
The agreement means that Tehran will have to answer specific questions about its nuclear programme — which the United States claims is aimed at making atomic weapons — in line with the agreed timetable over the coming weeks.
The IAEA has been conducting an investigation into the Iranian nuclear programme for more than four years, but is still unable to make any firm conclusion over its nature.
“We had progress between us and the IAEA and we came up with a working plan on how to address the outstanding issues,” said Vaeedi.
Neither man gave concrete details of the timetable, but Heinonen said these would be revealed in an IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear programme that is due to be released in two weeks.
Vaeedi said issues tackled included the handling of future inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites, including the sensitive heavy water facility in Arak and the Natanz uranium enrichment plant.
“All the issues that are important for the agency, current issues, pressing issues and the issues that relate to the past, have been incorporated,” he said.
Iran hopes that the agreed timetable will encourage Western powers to drop their threats to impose a third set of UN sanctions over its disputed nuclear programme.
But world powers warned Iran on Tuesday that just because it was talking to the IAEA did not mean it would escape punishment for its failure to heed UN demands to suspend sensitive uranium enrichment operations.
Enrichment has always been the key sticking point in attempts to break the deadlock between Iran and the West over the crisis.
The process is used to make the nuclear fuel for power stations, but in highly enriched form the uranium can be used to make the explosive warhead of a nuclear bomb.
US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns complained that Iran hopes it would stave off another resolution by having a “dalliance” with the IAEA.
“That should not turn off the third Security Council resolution that we believe should be passed in September,” he said in a debate in Washington organised by Radio Free Europe, the transcript of which was published on its website.
“We intend to push it very, very hard, and we certainly will never agree that because Iran has some meetings with the IAEA we should stop all of our efforts.”
France said that Iran’s failure to obey the demands in the previous sanctions resolutions for a halt to enrichment meant that the Security Council had to start discussing “substantial measures” against Tehran.
“We must… go back to the Security Council and start the necessary discussions to adopt a third resolution of sanctions, which we would like to be substantial,” a foreign ministry spokesman said.
Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani warned that the future of such discussions and Iran’s cooperation with the agency would be in danger if sanctions were imposed.
“If they (world powers) take an irrational move, then Iran’s cooperation with the agency as well as the talks will be sterile,” Larijani said late on Monday, according to the official IRNA news agency.
The United States accuses Iran — OPEC’s number two oil producer and owner of the second largest proven gas reserves in the world — of seeking to make nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian energy drive.
Iran, however, insists that the nuclear programme is entirely peaceful and its growing population needs electricity from atomic energy, especially when the fossil fuels start to run dry.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad indicated there was no chance of Iran backing down over its nuclear drive in line with the Security Council’s demands.
“We have established our nuclear activities in coordination with the agency and we will not back down in our principled stance,” he said in a speech in the northwestern town of Ardebil.