AP: Iran warned Wednesday that U.N. sanctions could “destroy” its willingness to cooperate with an investigation of past nuclear activities. Undeterred, the U.S. said it still would push for new penalties unless Tehran scraps technology that could make the bomb. Associated Press
By GEORGE JAHN
Associated Press Writer
VIENNA, Austria (AP) – Iran warned Wednesday that U.N. sanctions could “destroy” its willingness to cooperate with an investigation of past nuclear activities. Undeterred, the U.S. said it still would push for new penalties unless Tehran scraps technology that could make the bomb.
As the two nations sparred near the end of a 35-nation board meeting of the International Atomic Energy agency, IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei urged both sides to compromise, declaring: “I don’t think we can afford to fail.”
The meeting, which opened Monday, has been dominated by disputes over ElBaradei’s recent pact with Tehran committing it to stop stonewalling his experts and lift the shroud of secrecy on past suspicious nuclear work.
He has hailed the plan as “a significant step forward” that – if honored by Iran – would fill in the missing pieces of Iran’s nuclear jigsaw puzzle; nearly two decades of nuclear work, all of it clandestine until revealed by dissidents nearly five years ago.
But the U.S. and its western allies suspect that Iran is using the pact to deflect attention from its continued defiance of the Security Council ban on uranium enrichment, a pathway to nuclear arms as well as civilian reactor fuel.
Gregory L. Schulte, the chief U.S. delegate to the IAEA, told delegates that Washington “fears that Iran has no intention of coming clean … but rather seeks to delay further UNSC action while forging ahead developing bomb-making capabilities.”
Schulte downplayed IAEA reports that Iran has slowed down uranium enrichment, saying that even if Tehran pauses after reaching its declared goal of operating 3,000 enriching centrifuges, that number is “sufficient to produce enough highly enriched uranium for one bomb per year.”
And he warned that unless Iran scraps its enrichment program and heeds other Security Council demand, Washington will continue to seek “additional measures” – shorthand for new Security Council sanctions.
But chief Iranian delegate Ali Ashgar Soltanieh told delegates that “might … destroy the trend” of Iranian cooperation with the IAEA investigation.
In separate comments to The Associated Press, he accused Western nations of “poisoning the environment” at the IAEA meeting by downplaying initial successes in the agency’s investigation.
The country’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, echoed that warning at a press conference in Tehran.
“Cooperation will be in danger. The cooperation which is currently taking place with a positive outlook will be halted,” he said. “One side should not be smiling and the other side answer with a frown.”
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a short live television intervilogy – before the end of the year, as outlined in the deal.
Touching on U.S. concerns, Britain, France and Germany said ElBaradei’s efforts were appreciated but noted “weaknesses … (that) may possibly be used to delay the clarification of the outstanding questions.”
“We do not only need clarity about Iran’s nuclear past – we have to have full trust that Iran refrains now and in future from any military nuclear activities,” they said.
But nonaligned nations, which make up about a third of the board, backed Iran, rejecting “interference” in the investigation – an allusion to the actions of the U.S. and its allies.
In Moscow, Iran’s foreign minister met with the head of Russia’s nuclear energy agency for talks Wednesday amid a persistent dispute over a nuclear power plant Russia is building in Iran. A Russian official said that issue was not on the agenda.
Manouchehr Mottaki’s talks with Federal Atomic Energy Agency chief Sergei Kiriyenko came as Tehran presses Russia to finish construction on the $1 billion Bushehr plant – Iran’s first nuclear power station – and agree on a date to deliver nuclear fuel.
Russian officials say completion of the plant has been held up by delays in Iranian payments but Iranian officials have denied delays and accused Russia of caving in to Western pressure.
Associated Press writer Steve Gutterman in Moscow contributed to this report.