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Iran: Tehran Threatens To End Cooperation With UN Nuclear Watchdog

  • Golnaz Esfandiari

Prague, 10 March 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Iran today threatened to end its cooperation with the UN's nuclear watchdog agency.

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told reporters after a cabinet meeting that Iran is working with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), but he said such cooperation should be bilateral. He said, "If one side does not respect its obligations, the cooperation will end."

Kharrazi said the IAEA should honor its commitments to Tehran and stop being "influenced" by the United States. He said Tehran will react to any improper decisions made by the IAEA.

Iran's threat comes as the 35-member board of governors of the IAEA is set to issue a new resolution on Iran's nuclear program this week. News agencies report that the United States -- joined by Canada and Australia -- have reached agreement on the issue with Britain, France, and Germany. The text of the draft resolution reportedly criticizes Tehran for not fully living up to pledges to be completely transparent about its past and present nuclear activities.

Iran's ambassador to the IAEA in Vienna, Pirooz Hosseini, said today that the draft resolution is the result of U.S. "bullying." He said European nations should have done more to stand up to Washington. "The three European countries [Britain, Germany, and France] tried their best, I think. But, on the other hand, we expected more from our European colleagues," he said. "But unfortunately, as I said, too much pressure -- unconstructive pressure by the Americans -- put an impediment and an obstacle in the way of the cooperation of Iran with the agency."

"Certainly, the most urgent and important issue is to resolve the question of why the IAEA found traces of highly enriched uranium on components and at sites in Iran. This question is still unresolved."
Under a deal brokered last year by France, Germany, and Britain, Iran agreed to fully cooperate with the IAEA and to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities. In return, the three European countries agreed to provide Iran with peaceful nuclear technology. Kharrazi said Iran plans to resume its uranium-enrichment activities once its relations with the IAEA are normalized. Iran says its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only. The United States accuses Tehran of pursuing a clandestine weapons program.

Reuters reported the draft resolution tells Iran it will be punished if it defies the IAEA but stops short of any immediate referral to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions. The text also reportedly praises Iran for signing the Additional Protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which gives UN inspectors the right to conduct snap inspections of its nuclear facilities.

Mehdi Mozafari is a professor of political science at Arhus University in Denmark. He says Iran is effectively trying to blackmail the IAEA by threatening to halt cooperation. "In this situation, the Iranian government is finding [itself] under huge pressure both from the [UN nuclear] agency and also from the Americans and Europeans. I don't think really that the Iranian government has much argument or possibilities to counterattack the peaceful strategy from the agency," Mozafari told RFE/RL.

Earlier this week, Tehran called on the IAEA to remove Iran's nuclear program from its agenda. But IAEA Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei said Iran's nuclear program will be taken off the agency's agenda only after all outstanding issues are resolved.

A spokeswoman for the agency, Melissa Fleming, spoke to RFE/RL's Persian Service on 8 March about the most critical issue facing the agency: "Certainly, the most urgent and important issue is to resolve the question of why the IAEA found traces of highly enriched uranium on components and at sites in Iran. This question is still unresolved."

Iran blames imported materials from third parties for the contamination. Highly enriched uranium is a key ingredient for the production of nuclear weapons.

Professor Mozafari says Iran's future ratification of the Additional Protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty is another unresolved issue. "So far, this protocol has not been approved by the parliament, [so] it has not really the validity of law," he said.

The Iranian government has not yet submitted the bill for the ratification of the Additional Protocol to parliament. However, Iran has said it will act as if the protocol is already in force. Mozafari says ratification of the bill could be jeopardized if the government waits to submit it until Iran's new conservative-dominated parliament convenes in June.

Earlier this week, a conservative member of parliament's influential National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Hassan Qashqavi, said Iran could pull out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty if the situation with the IAEA deteriorates.
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