Reuters: Iran is not being fully open with U.N. inspectors about its nuclear programme and may still be hiding something from the international community, Germany’s designated foreign minister said on Thursday. By Louis Charbonneau and Mark Trevelyan
BERLIN, Nov 10 (Reuters) – Iran is not being fully open with U.N. inspectors about its nuclear programme and may still be hiding something from the international community, Germany’s designated foreign minister said on Thursday.
“There is a lack of transparency. That is clear,” Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at a conference on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
“We still have some suspicions that there are developments being pursued (by Iran) that go against this principle.”
Iran concealed its uranium enrichment programme, which could be used to develop nuclear weapons, from the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency for 18 years (IAEA), fuelling fears among Western countries that it has a covert atom bomb programme.
Iran denies pursuing nuclear weapons and insists its atomic programme is aimed solely at the peaceful generation of electricity. It has turned down a U.S.-backed offer by Germany, France and Britain of political and economic incentives if it scraps its uranium enrichment programme.
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei hopes a deal will be reached within days that will defuse the standoff over Iran’s nuclear programme, the nuclear watchdog said in a statement issued at its Vienna headquarters.
Steinmeier, who is expected formally to replace outgoing Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer later this month, said he was hopeful the issue could be resolved through negotiation but urged Iran not to inflame the situation through rhetoric.
“Whoever denies the right of Israel to exist is really jeopardising a peaceful resolution,” he said, referring to recent comments by Iran’s new President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Israel should be “wiped off the map”.
Tehran had a right to a peaceful nuclear energy programme but must assure the world that it is not pursuing atom bombs, Steinmeier said.
“Iran has a right that the international community accept its sovereign rights, its national pride and honour. But what is more important is that the international community has a right to get objective guarantees that Iran’s nuclear programme will be exclusively used for peaceful purposes,” he said.
German foreign intelligence chief August Hanning earlier told the same conference: “If the fears prove justified and Iran too comes into possession of nuclear weapons, this would have unforseeable consequences for the security architecture and the spread of weapons of mass destruction in the whole near and Middle East, our direct neighbourhood.”
He said existing mechanisms to stop the spread of atomic weapons were coming under increasing strain.
“We look at the future with great concern. More and more states possess the technical and industrial know-how to produce weapons of mass destruction,” Hanning said.
He said the wider this knowledge spread among developing countries, the harder it became to control it through existing non-proliferation regimes.
Emerging nations were increasingly offering sensitive technology for sale on the world market.
“This so-called horizontal proliferation places the current non-proliferation policy, based on export controls in western industrial countries, more and more in question.”