AP: The United States and European Union on Monday backed efforts to get Iran to reveal details of past nuclear activities, but suggested concerns about Tehran’s intentions will ease only if it also scraps technology that can be used to make atomic bombs. Associated Press
By GEORGE JAHN
Associated Press Writer
VIENNA, Austria (AP) – The United States and European Union on Monday backed efforts to get Iran to reveal details of past nuclear activities, but suggested concerns about Tehran’s intentions will ease only if it also scraps technology that can be used to make atomic bombs.
The European Union’s concern about that technology – uranium enrichment – was expressed in a statement made available to The Associated Press before its scheduled delivery Wednesday at a 35-nation board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
While noting reports of progress in the U.N. agency’s attempt to pry answers from Iran on former nuclear activities, the statement noted that questions still remain, including the purpose of diagrams held by Tehran showing how to mold uranium metal into the shape of warheads.
But most of the four-page document focused on Iran’s defiance of a U.N. Security Council ban on enrichment, suggesting the EU wants to emphasize the importance of compliance with that demand over any reports of progress in the IAEA investigation. The document implicitly played down the significance of the investigation, which was arranged by agency head Mohamed ElBaradei.
The West is worried Iran could exploit goodwill generated by signs it is cooperating on some issues to weaken concerns about its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment.
Before the start of Monday’s board meeting, diplomats told AP that ElBaradei’s decision to agree on an action plan setting out what Iran has to answer and when without consulting the board raised Western concerns that he overstepped his authority.
Gregory L. Schulte, the chief U.S. delegate, appeared at pains to dispel such reports as the meeting convened.
“The United States … strongly supports the IAEA’s running effort to overcome Iran’s refusal to cooperate fully, and of course we will welcome any progress about resolving troubling questions about Iran’s past nuclear activities,” Schulte told reporters.
But even if Iran does give quick and thorough answers to IAEA questions on former programs that could be linked to a weapons program, “cooperation that gives Iran the wherewithal to build nuclear weapons is not enough,” Schulte said, alluding to enrichment.
ElBaradei called Tehran’s defiance of the Security Council on enrichment “regrettable.”
And while noting that Iran has provided “additional information and access needed to resolve a number of long-standing issues,” he said questions had not been answered on other topics important to his agency’s investigation.
Also key, ElBaradei said, is restoring and expanding the U.N. agency’s access to encompass rights to search for possible hidden nuclear work that Iran may not have made public.
Before the meeting, diplomats linked to the agency suggested U.S. disenchantment with ElBaradei was at its highest since early 2005. That was when Washington considered pushing for his ouster because it considered him too soft on Iran and a drag on attempts to refer the Islamic republic to the U.N. Security Council – something that finally happened last year.
U.S. displeasure was again aroused this year when ElBaradei suggested it was too late to expect Iran to scrap its uranium enrichment program, then signed the deal with Tehran committing the Iranians to end years of stonewalling and answer questions about more than two decades of nuclear activities – most of it secret, and some of it with possible links to a weapons program.
The diplomats said Washington and most other Western board members felt ElBaradei overstepped his authority by agreeing to such a deal without consulting the IAEA board.
But publicly, Washington and other nations backing new U.N. sanctions against Tehran toned down initial criticism because of worries that opposition could backfire.
A diplomat said opposition could give the impression the U.S., France and Britain, the most vocal backers of new U.N. sanctions, did not care about resolving the issue that sent Iran’s nuclear file to the Security Council in the first place – its refusal to cooperate in dispelling suspicions about past nuclear activities.
Behind the scenes, however, U.S. opposition appeared to be continuing. One diplomat said Washington recently sent diplomatic notes to the other 34 board members asking them not to “take note” of the action plan in any statements to the board, so as not to give the impression they were attaching undue significance to it.