Reuters: Iran is a “special case” because of concerns it may be working to develop an atom bomb, the U.N. nuclear watchdog chief said on Monday amid an Arab push to focus his agency’s attention on Israel’s presumed nuclear arsenal.
By Sylvia Westall
VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran is a “special case” because of concerns it may be working to develop an atom bomb, the U.N. nuclear watchdog chief said on Monday amid an Arab push to focus his agency’s attention on Israel’s presumed nuclear arsenal.
The Iranian ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency said Israel’s nuclear capability was the bigger issue.
With the U.N. Security Council expected to vote on new Iran sanctions this week, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano highlighted Tehran’s escalating uranium enrichment in defiance of U.N. resolutions demanding a halt and its failure to grant unfettered access to his inspectors and investigators.
“I also need to mention that Iran is a special case because, among other things, of the existence of issues related to possible military dimensions to its nuclear program,” he said, opening a meeting of the IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors.
But the Iranian envoy said the Vienna-based agency should concentrate its non-proliferation efforts on Tehran’s regional arch-foe Israel, which has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and is widely believed to have the only nuclear arsenal in the Middle East.
The debate followed a month-long U.N. conference in New York to review the NPT which put Israel in the spotlight, and at a time of wider international scrutiny of the Jewish state after its high-seas raid on a Gaza-bound aid convoy.
“(Israel) is a serious security concern for the region and the world at large,” Ali Asghar Soltanieh told reporters, criticizing “crimes against humanity in Gaza. This sort of violation of international law plus nuclear capability is very dangerous for the security of the whole world.”
ISRAEL IN FOCUS
Israel, like India, Pakistan and North Korea, is outside the NPT. The Jewish state says it cannot discuss the issue as long as many of its neighbors remain hostile to its existence. It has neither confirmed nor denied having nuclear weapons.
By shunning the NPT, Israel has not had to foreswear nuclear arms or admit inspectors to all of its nuclear sites. NPT member Iran has allowed IAEA inspectors some access but is seen by the West as an NPT rule-breaker and potential bomb risk.
Arab nations will seek to put pressure on Israel later this week when the board debates “Israeli nuclear capabilities.” They want Amano to help implement an IAEA resolution urging Israel to put its nuclear sites under inspection and join the NPT.
It will be the first time the IAEA’s policy-making board addresses the topic since 1991.
Amano said he will report on the resolution at the IAEA’s general assembly in September, adding he had only received 17 responses on the issue so far from 150 member states.
Some diplomats said this raised the question of why it was necessary to discuss the issue now.
“We see no appropriate basis for this organization to discuss Israel’s nuclear program,” U.S. envoy Glyn Davies said, adding that the debate should wait for Amano’s report.
“Unlike other countries’ nuclear programs discussed by this body, we are not aware that Israel is in violation of commitments it has undertaken with the IAEA,” he said.
Developing nation votes helped push through the Israel resolution last September, the first time in 18 years of attempts by Arab countries at the IAEA’s assembly.
(Additional reporting by Fredrik Dahl; editing by Mark Heinrich)