Iran Nuclear NewsRussia hints it will back Iran sanctions calls

Russia hints it will back Iran sanctions calls

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ImageThe Times: Iran’s Supreme Leader took to the deck of a naval guided missile destroyer yesterday in defiance of the international storm sparked by the United Nations’ warning that Tehran may be building a nuclear bomb. The Times

Catherine Philp, Diplomatic Correspondent

ImageIran’s Supreme Leader took to the deck of a naval guided missile destroyer yesterday in defiance of the international storm sparked by the United Nations’ warning that Tehran may be building a nuclear bomb.

There were renewed calls for sanctions from the United States, Britain, France and Germany. But some of the strongest reaction came from Russia, the country traditionally most reluctant to impose them, raising hopes of a consensus at the UN Security Council.

A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iran, the first since the departure of its controversial former chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, said the evidence that the agency had gathered “raises concerns about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile”, which Iran had repeatedly refused to address.

“We are very alarmed and we cannot accept this, that Iran is refusing to co-operate with the IAEA,” Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, said. “For about 20 years, the Iranian leadership carried out its clandestine nuclear programme without reporting it to the IAEA. I do not understand why there was such secrecy.”

France, which is chairing the Security Council, urged world powers to act with urgency and determination to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions. France is eager to table a sanctions resolution drawn up by Washington before the end of this month when it relinquishes the chair.

Germany’s Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, said the report had made a dramatic impact on the Chinese and appeared to have eroded their opposition to sanctions. “I have the firm impression that China sees the prospect of Iran having nuclear weapons as unacceptable,” Mr Westerwelle said.

The tenor of the IAEA report, released under the new director-general, Yukiya Amano, marks a radical change in the agency’s attitude towards Iran. Mr ElBaradei left the agency last October amid controversy and accusations from his staff that he suppressed evidence implicating Iran in weapons development.

The report sets out in sober detail the technical questions it wants Iran to answer drawn on that evidence, including indications that Tehran worked on developing a warhead small enough to fit on a missile. Elsewhere it said that the agency wished to discuss with Iran “details relating to the manufacture of components for high-explosives initiation systems, and experiments concerned with the generation and detection of neutrons”.

Diplomatic sources said that this second point was a reference to a secret Iranian document describing a four-year plan to develop a “nuclear trigger”, first reported by The Times in December.

Mr Lavrov backed the agency’s calls, saying: “Some questions remain on the table and Iran has so far not reacted to them but they are rather serious and we need to understand how several documents concerning military nuclear technology found their way to Iran.”

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman hinted that Moscow was ready to back efforts to bring a UN resolution on sanctions to the Security Council within weeks.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, speaking at the launch of the Jamaran, Iran’s first domestically built naval destroyer, denied that Iran was seeking nuclear weapons and accused Washington of trying to frighten its Arab neighbours into buying American weapons.

“We’ve said time and again that our religious principles and beliefs consider such weapons to be a symbol of destruction that is forbidden. We don’t have any belief in the atomic bomb and don’t pursue it,” he said.

Former IAEA director-general Mohamed El Baradei on Iran’s nuclear programme

June 2003 “The more transparency Iran can provide, the more access we can get, the more confidence we can create”

September 2005
“I hope Iran will continue to work with all members of the international community to build confidence that its programme is for peaceful purposes”

January 2006 “I am not yet in a position to make a judgment on the peaceful nature of the [nuclear] programme”

October 2007 “We are not talking about Iran having a nuclear weapon”

October 4, 2009 “The [International Atomic Energy] agency has no concrete proof there is an ongoing weapons programme in Iran”

Source: IAEA

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