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Iran: Tehran Seems Unmoved As IAEA Meeting Approaches

By Bill Samii and Fatemeh Aman Iran's chief negotiator on the nuclear issue, Ali Larijani (RFE/RL) The Iranian nuclear file will come before the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on 24 November. Just two months earlier, the board issued a tough resolution in which it urged Iran to be more transparent and cooperative, called on Tehran to halt all uranium-enrichment activities, and hinted at the possibility of a referral to the UN Security Council --> . Since then, Iran has opened up a previously inaccessible site to IAEA inspectors and voiced an interest in resuming nuclear discussions with the European Union, but it has steadfastly refused to suspend the enrichment activities it resumed in August.

Nuclear experts widely agree that this is a highly sensitive time, and they say it is very much up to Iran to avoid referral to the UN Security Council. Such a referral could lead to a range of sanctions.

Yet Tehran seems unmoved and unwilling to bend.

In Tehran's Hands

Pierre Goldschmidt, IAEA deputy director-general and head of the Department of Safeguards, said at the Carnegie International Nonproliferation Conference in Washington on 7 November that Iran has two priorities. The first is avoiding referral to the UN Security Council; the second is avoiding undue delays in progress on its uranium-conversion and enrichment capability.

"To avoid being referred to the UN Security Council and to gain time," Goldschmidt predicted, "Iran will likely provide IAEA inspectors some, but not all, access to individuals and documents which has long been requested." Indeed, Tehran did this when it gave inspectors access to the Parchin military site on 1 November, although the results of their visit will not be available in time for the governing board's meeting. Goldschmidt suggested that Iran might even resume the voluntary suspension of some uranium-conversion activities, thereby gaining the support of some board members and also being able to threaten to resume those activities in case of referral.

"In the meantime," Goldschmidt continued, "Iran will have accumulated more UF6 [uranium hexafluoride], improved its uranium-conversion process, and possibly pursued the construction of its underground enrichment plant at Natanz." He said the governing board must decide whether such actions can continue without undermining the IAEA's credibility.

"If Iran wants to defuse the current crisis," Goldschmidt told the conference, it should "agree in writing with the IAEA to provide the agency's inspectors and experts unfettered 'access at all times to all places and data and to any person,'" and it should "agree in writing with the IAEA to suspend all nuclear-fuel-cycle-related activities for a period of, say, 12 months, thereby giving time for negotiations based on the EU proposal to be pursued in good faith." He went on to say that Iran should ratify the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, rather than threatening to suspend its implementation.

A Reluctant Security Council

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace associate Miriam Rajkumar, who is a coauthor of the book "Deadly Arsenals: Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Threats," also believes that Iran must act decisively to avoid referral to the Security Council. She told Radio Farda on 7 November that Iran must "offer some sort of concrete measure." Rajkumar continued, "I think Iran has really put itself in a hard place by resuming some of the enrichment work that it has resumed, and some of the remarks that the president has made, has put them in a tight corner with the European as well in term of diplomacy." She recommended opening up the Lavizan site in northeastern Tehran, which has high-tech equipment that has piqued inspectors' curiosity.

Another nuclear expert said in a 7 November interview with Radio Farda that referral to the UN Security Council is unlikely. "The Security Council really does not want to deal with this issue at this point," Joseph Cirincione, senior associate, director for nonproliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and co-author of "Deadly Arsenals," said. "It's clear that bringing Iran to the Security Council, one, doesn’t have the support of enough nations to do it, and two, if you did it, would lead to a confrontation without clear solution in sight." Cirincione said if Iran opens the enrichment facilities and begins enrichment it would provoke the Security Council.

An Unmovable Tehran?

Efforts to persuade Tehran to change course are continuing, although they have not yielded the their initiators' desired result. "The New York Times" reported on 10 November that the EU-3 (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) and Washington have approved a proposal that would allow some nuclear activities on Iranian territory but move all enrichment activities to Russia. The paper quoted anonymous European and U.S. officials saying that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and IAEA Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei discussed the issue on 8 November and that el-Baradei is scheduled to submit the proposal to Tehran.

Rice later said the United States is not party to the negotiations and there is no such proposal, "The New York Times" reported on 11 November.

In Tehran, Vice President for Atomic Energy Gholam Reza Aqazadeh-Khoi announced after a meeting with Russian National Security Council Secretary Ivan Ivanov on 12 November that Iran wants uranium-enrichment activities to take place on its own territory, Mehr News Agency reported. "Iran's nuclear fuel will be produced inside Iran," Aqazadeh said. "At the same time, we want to provide part of our fuel from abroad." Aqazadeh reportedly said Iran is willing to consider cooperating with other countries' nuclear activities.

Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani also met with Ivanov on 12 November. He said afterward that a change in attitudes on the nuclear issue would be more constructive than making new proposals, IRNA and state television reported. Larijani dismissed the possibility of moving uranium-enrichment activities to Russia, saying, "The Iranian nation will never rely on other factors except its own potentials." Stressing the need for independent capabilities, he added, "What is important to Iran is that the nuclear technology of Iranians is safeguarded because such capacity and capability are regarded as part of national strength."

Larijani said Iran is willing to consider any proposals that might resolve the dispute over the country's nuclear program.

RFE/RL Iran Report

RFE/RL Iran Report

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