Iran Nuclear NewsIAEA chief defends Iran plan

IAEA chief defends Iran plan

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AP: The chief U.N. nuclear inspector warned Friday against sounding the “war drums” over the Iranian nuclear standoff and said he sees no reason to go beyond diplomacy in apparent criticism of the U.S. position.
Associated Press

By GEORGE JAHN

VIENNA, Austria (AP) — The chief U.N. nuclear inspector warned Friday against sounding the “war drums” over the Iranian nuclear standoff and said he sees no reason to go beyond diplomacy in apparent criticism of the U.S. position.

Mohamed ElBaradei, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the U.N. nuclear watchdog had a reasonable timetable for Iran to come clean on past nuclear activities, but detractors were not giving the IAEA’s efforts a chance to work.

The U.S. suspects Iran’s uranium enrichment program is geared toward producing nuclear weapons and says that all options, including new U.N. sanctions and military action against Iran, remain on the table.

ElBaradei called for an end to the pounding of the “war drums from those who are basically saying ‘the solution is bomb Iran.'” He warned against rhetoric that is “a reminder of pre-war Iraq” in comments to reporters in Vienna.

“We have not seen any weaponization of their program, nor have we received any information to that effect — no smoking gun or information from intelligence,” he said. “Based on the evidence, we have, we do not see … a clear and present danger that requires that you go beyond diplomacy.”

Responding to the “war drums” comment, State Department spokesman Tom Casey said he “would certainly hope that those kinds of comments wouldn’t be referred to the United States, because they certainly wouldn’t be true.”

He said the United States appreciates the IAEA’s efforts to try to help answer questions about Iran’s nuclear program.”

“It would be really hard for anyone to say that the United States has been anything but at the forefront of supporting the work of the IAEA to try and resolve these issues.”

ElBaradei urged both Iran and the U.S.-led camp pushing for new U.N. Security Council sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear defiance to agree to a time-out to cool passions and pave the way for a return to negotiations.

Diplomats accredited to the IAEA say ElBaradei is under U.S. pressure over a recent IAEA-Iran working plan committing Tehran to fully clear up its past nuclear activities by year’s end.

“We have a timeline which would enable us by … December to check clearly whether Iran is ready to work with us in good faith or whether (as) some like to suspect, Iran is buying time,” ElBaradei said.

“This is a reasonable time in our view to resolve a number of complex issues,” he added.

The U.S. has suggested that Iran was using the work plan as a smoke screen to deflect attention away from its continued defiance of a Security Council ban on uranium enrichment, a potential pathway to nuclear arms.

But ElBaradei criticized those who “do not necessarily understand the process,” an apparent reference to the U.S. misgivings.

Washington and its closest allies called for new sanctions as recently as July 30, when the IAEA reported “significant” progress in clearing up past questions about Iran while at the same time confirming that Tehran was expanding its enrichment program.

“For the last few years, we have been told by the Security Council … that we needed to clarify the outstanding issues,” ElBaradei said. “We obviously had to welcome” Tehran’s decision to cooperate with the agency.”

In the IAEA-Iran plan agreed in July, Iran agreed to answer questions from agency experts by December on more than two decades of nuclear activity — most of it secret until revealed over four years ago.

The plan, which was made public last month, appeared to give Iran a clean bill of health on past small-scale plutonium experiments that could be linked to a weapons program. The IAEA said Tehran had accounted for amounts that of the substance originally appeared to have been missing.

It also noted cooperation on other issues, while specifying that Tehran still needed to satisfy the agency’s curiosity about its enrichment technology and traces of highly enriched uranium at a facility linked to the military.

The plan forms the backbone of an IAEA report to be debated at a 35-nation board meeting of the agency that opens Monday.

Associated Press writer Foster Klug contributed to this report from Washington.

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