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IAEA Says Iran Cooperating, But Not Enough

IAEA Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei addressing the Vienna meeting on November 22 (official site) November 23, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The UN's nuclear watchdog is due to wrap up a meeting today to discuss its latest report on Iran's nuclear program.

Speaking at the meeting in Vienna on November 22, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Muhammad el-Baradei, said he cannot be sure Tehran has declared all of its nuclear material and activities to inspectors, despite what he says is Iran's increased openness about its past programs.

"Our progress over the past two months has been made possible by an increased level of cooperation on the part of Iran, in accordance with the work plan," el-Baradei said. "However, I would continue to urge Iran to be more proactive in providing information, and in accelerating the pace of this cooperation, in order for the agency to be able to clarify all major remaining outstanding issues by the end of the year."

El-Baradei's statement underlined the impasse that remains between the IAEA and Tehran, despite what both sides say has been increased cooperation in recent months.

Full Cooperation?

The cooperation has centered on the two sides signing a "work plan" in August under which Tehran agreed to answer outstanding questions about its nuclear program by the end of the year.

The agreement is meant to remove all technical ambiguities surrounding Tehran's nuclear projects to ensure that they are only for peaceful purposes.

But the current IAEA report casts serious doubts on whether Iran is providing the necessary answers. The report notes that while Iran has been candid about its early procurement of material and equipment for enriching uranium, it still allows inspectors access only to sites they already know about.

In the meantime, Iran continues to ignore Security Council demands to suspend uranium enrichment -- a demand backed by the passage of two rounds of mild sanctions since December. Instead, Tehran has stepped up its efforts to master the enrichment technology, something Western states say it hopes one day to use for making nuclear weapons.

Iran says its nuclear activities are only intended to produce energy. And at the IAEA meeting on November 22, Tehran's ambassador to the organization demanded the Security Council stop pressing Iran to suspend its enrichment work.

"We will continue this mood of cooperation provided that the international community and peace-loving countries prevent the United States or others to make noise and create problems and jeopardize, in fact, this constructive approach by any measure in the United Nations Security Council," Ali Asghar Soltanieh said. "United Nation Security Council involvement has to be stopped -- the sooner the better."

Iran maintains that all matters connected to its nuclear program should be settled within the framework of the IAEA alone.

Meanwhile, the continuing impasse appears to set the stage for a heightened confrontation in the weeks ahead.

The five permanent Security Council members plus Germany agreed in September to hold a vote on a third round of sanctions unless the current IAEA report -- and a similar one to be prepared by the EU -- had what they called a "positive outcome."

The Western powers on the Security Council now look certain to say the IAEA report is far from reaching that "positive" conclusion. But Russia and China -- which favor a slower approach to sanctions -- may argue there is enough cooperation from Tehran to postpone a third sanctions debate.

The strength of either argument may now depend in large part on the upcoming report from the EU. It remains unclear when the report will be issued, but it is expected soon.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Said Jalili, said on November 22 that he will meet EU foreign-policy chief Javier Solana on November 30 in London to discuss Iran's nuclear program. Solana's office has yet to confirm a date.

Iran's Nuclear Program

Iran's Nuclear Program

THE COMPLETE PICTURE: RFE/RL's complete coverage of controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program.


An annotated timeline of Iran's nuclear program.