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IAEA Report On Iran Shows 'Zero Progress' On Cooperation, Schulte Says

Gregory Schulte
Gregory Schulte
The UN nuclear watchdog says its investigation into intelligence allegations of secret atom bomb research in Iran has reached a standstill because of Iranian noncooperation. In its latest report, issued this week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also says Iran continues to defy UN demands by refusing to suspend its uranium enrichment program.

RFE/RL Radio Farda correspondent Hossein Aryan spoke about the report with Gregory Schulte, the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA in Vienna.

RFE/RL: In the light of IAEA chief Muhammad el-Baradei's report, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy at the IAEA, says that the latest report endorses the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program. What is your view on that?

Gregory Schulte: My goodness. I mean, Ambassador Soltanieh must have read a different report. The report that I read, it was a progress report that showed zero progress. One IAEA official said it demonstrated gridlock. I actually think it shows a roadblock. And the roadblock has been erected by the authorities of Iran.

At every junction, on every request, they are saying "no" to the IAEA inspectors. The IAEA wants Iran to implement the Additional Protocol; Iran refuses. The IAEA has asked for access to the workshops where centrifuges are being built; Iran refuses. The IAEA has asked for early information on new nuclear sites; Iran refuses. The IAEA has asked a whole series of questions about weaponization -- and that is the term meaning indications that Iran has worked on the design of a nuclear device and its integration into a delivery system -- and Iran said "no."

And, in fact, the refusal of Iran for at least a third time in a row to address weaponization is in the words of the [IAEA] Director-General Mr. el-Baradei "a serious concern." Iran is stonewalling here. We all recognize Iran's right to peaceful use of nuclear technology, but Iran also has an obligation to cooperate with the IAEA, and Iran's leaders are failing in that obligation.

RFE/RL: Iranian officials stress that all claims regarding Iran's activities, tests, or developing nuclear weapons are based on false documents and made-up data. They also stress that Iran asked the IAEA to provide the original U.S. documents and data but that has not materialized. What is this all about?

Schulte: Well, first off, the inspectors consider the indications of weaponization to be very credible, very serious. That is why they have briefed the board about them. That is why they have put them in the report. In fact, the report I have in front of me talks about how this information about weaponization has been derived from multiple sources over different periods of time, detailed in content, and generally consistent.

This is not material from the United States. This is material the IAEA says they have gotten from about 10 different countries, and it is not just studies. It is indication that Iran has engaged in studies, engineering work, testing, procurement, all related to the design of a nuclear weapon and the integration into a delivery system like the Shahab-3 missile. This is a matter of serious concern.

We want a very different type of relationship with Iran. We want to cooperate with Iran, but Iran's leaders have to make the choice first.
Ambassador [to the IAEA Ali Asgar] Soltaneih and other Iranian authorities are trying to avoid addressing this by claiming it's falsified or by claiming that somehow it's outside the mandate of the IAEA, but it is not outside the mandate of the IAEA. The Security Council has told the IAEA to look into this and the inspectors consider this quite seriously. In fact, another part of the report in front of me says that the documentation was sufficiently comprehensive and detailed that it needed to be taken seriously.

The inspectors posed a series of questions to Iran. They asked to meet specific individuals. They asked for access to specific workshops, and Iran has denied to provide that access. If Iranian authorities really want to show that they weren't conducting weaponization, then they should open their books. They should welcome inspectors in instead of keeping them out. And if Iran in fact was conducting some weaponization activities, well, they should provide a full disclosure and allow the IAEA to ascertain that they are not continuing.

RFE/RL: The IAEA report is to be submitted soon to the UN Security Council. In light of the Georgia crisis and the tension between the United States and Russia, are you expecting Russia to cooperate with the United States?

Schulte: Well, I just met with the Russian ambassador, and in fact I met with the ambassadors from Russia, China, and France, and the U.K. and Germany -- the six countries involved here in Vienna -- and it is fully our intention to continue to work together to implement the dual-track strategy. I know that there are authorities in Iran who are suggesting that the six are no longer together, but they are together. And the six are very much committed, together with Russia, to a dual-track strategy of offering a negotiated way out to the Iranian authorities, one that has very generous terms, one in which the United States will sit down with Iran and others as an equal at the table.

All that Iran has to do is suspend the uranium-enrichment activities that it doesn't need for a civil program but which have given such concern to the international community.

But the second track is to continue to move forward with sanctions. The United States recently put some additional sanctions in place against the Iranian shipping line that has been involved in some illicit procurement activities. The European Union has put additional sanctions in place, and we will be talking to our partners about additional steps the Security Council could take, too.

Unfortunately, what Iran's authorities are doing is they are making the wrong choice. The choice they should be making is to cooperate with the IAEA, explain their past activities, come clean, allow the IAEA inspectors the access they need and then, rather than try to confront the international community, take advantage of the major offer that still is on the table. But if they don't make this choice, they are by default making another choice and that is to leave Iran increasingly isolated, increasingly under sanctions, and no one wants that in the end.

We want a very different type of relationship with Iran. We want to cooperate with Iran, but Iran's leaders have to make the choice first.

RFE/RL Iran Report

RFE/RL Iran Report

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