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Iran: Tehran Pledges Transparency As IAEA Prepares To Discuss Cooperation, Possible Sanctions

Iran is pledging transparency in its dealings with the International Atomic Energy Agency, just days before the UN watchdog is set to meet to discuss Tehran's nuclear programs and possible sanctions. Analysts say Tehran is counting on Europe not to side with the U.S. in the dispute.

Prague, 14 November 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Iran today stressed its determination to adhere to "complete transparency" in its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told reporters in Tokyo after a meeting with top Japanese officials that Tehran has already cooperated with the nuclear watchdog beyond expectations. "We decided to be transparent [on the nuclear issue]. Therefore, the report we recently gave to the IAEA was even more than they expected," he said. "And it included all of Iran's nuclear activities for the last two decades."

Kharrazi's comments came a day after Iran's representative to the IAEA warned of "unpredictable consequences" if the agency finds the country in breach of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by pursuing nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful and is meant for civilian use.

On 13 November, the IAEA's board of governors will discuss the latest report on Iran's nuclear program. Inspectors found evidence that, until recently, Iran had carried out covert nuclear activities, including enriching uranium. But the inspectors found no evidence of a nuclear-weapons program.

U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton called this assessment "impossible to believe." Washington wants the IAEA to declare Iran in breach of the NPT. In that case, the issue would be taken before the UN Security Council, where Tehran could face sanctions.

Dr. Sadegh Zibakalam is a professor of political science at Tehran University. Referring to a recent deal struck in Tehran with the foreign ministers of France, Britain, and Germany, Zibakalam says Tehran hopes the European countries will not side with the U.S. in the dispute. "Well, first of all, Iran is counting very much on the good office of the European community as a go-between Iran and the United States as far as the nuclear issue is concerned," he said. "Iran is hoping that Britain, France, and Germany would stand up to their commitment to support Iran and back Iran if Iran could prove to them that it was honest and sincere about its nuclear activities, and Iran has done so."

Reuters reported today that France, Germany, and Britain are preparing a UN resolution criticizing Iran for concealing sensitive nuclear technology for decades from the IAEA. The toughly worded resolution would be in lieu of taking the issue before the Security Council.

Zibakalam says that if the Europeans do not support Iran at next week's meeting, Tehran might as well stop cooperating with the IAEA. "However, if for any reason, for any unfortunate reason, the three European countries would not stand up to the U.S. pressure on Iran," he said, "then I think Iran would not find it any longer necessary to cooperate with the IAEA or any other international organization because Iran obviously would say, 'What is the point of being open and cooperative with the IAEA when it doesn't take you anywhere?'"

Some Iranian conservatives have said Iran should follow North Korea's example and simply pull out of the NPT. However, Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's representative to the IAEA, said yesterday Iran will not withdraw from the NPT, a move that would likely be followed by economic sanctions. "We hope we don't reach that stage [of sanctions]," Salehi said, "because then things will easily get out of control."

Hajir Teymourian is an analyst on Iran who is based in London. He said Iran's threats of "unpredictable consequences" are largely to placate hard-liners within Iran. "I expect that this is for internal purposes" he said. "In other words, the hard-liners who run the government of Iran need to appear strong, need [to be seen] not to be giving in to the external pressure."

He adds that Iran is in no position to follow through on such threats. "Iran can do very, very little. We all know that Iran is in a very weak position since the attacks on America, when America's heart was violated on 11 September 2001," he said. "The world has changed, and now Iran finds itself surrounded by pro-American states on all sides -- in the north even, in the former Soviet Union even."

On 10 November, Tehran said it had suspended its uranium-enrichment activities. Tehran also sent an official letter of intent to the IAEA to sign the Additional Protocol to the NPT, which would allow snap inspections of its nuclear facilities.

Today in Tokyo, Foreign Minister Kharrazi noted that Tehran's cooperation comes despite the fact the Iranian parliament has not yet officially adopted the Additional Protocol. "Until the Additional Protocol is adopted by our parliament, we have voluntarily accepted that the IAEA's inspections will continue as before, so that they make sure all our programs are in accordance with international safeguards," he said.

Kharrazi also asked Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for Tokyo's support for its position at next week's IAEA meeting.
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    Golnaz Esfandiari

    Golnaz Esfandiari is managing editor of RFE/RL's Radio Farda, which breaks through government censorship to deliver accurate news and provide a platform for informed discussion and debate to audiences in Iran. She has reported from Afghanistan and Haiti and is one of the authors of The Farda Briefing newsletter. Her work has been cited by The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other major publications. Born and raised in Tehran, she is fluent in Persian, French, English, and Czech.