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International Outcry Follows IAEA Iran Report


IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano
The latest IAEA report on Iran is eliciting strong expressions of concern from many capitals over Iran's nuclear intentions.

The United States, Russia, Britain, France, and Germany have all criticized Iran over the IAEA's charge that Iran is failing to cooperate with the UN nuclear agency. Only China has yet to publicly comment on the report.

The IAEA report, the first written by IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano since he took over the agency in December, indicated that Iran's weapons-related activity apparently continued "beyond 2004."

That contradicts a 2007 U.S. intelligence assessment that said Iran halted such activity in 2003 and had probably not resumed it.

The IAEA also confirmed that Iran has produced its first batch of enriched uranium to 20 percent.

International Alarm

Russia, a country with economic interests in Iran, expressed alarm at Iran's lack of cooperation. "We are very alarmed and we cannot accept this, that Iran is refusing to cooperate with the IAEA," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with the Ekho Moskvy radio station.

Lavrov added that Tehran needed to provide "clear explanations" about how documents concerning military nuclear technology have found their way to Iran.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko, indicated that talks on sanctions against the Islamic republic could start soon.

Britain said that the IAEA report confirms its fears that "Iran is acting duplicitously and illegally." Britain's Foreign Office said in a statement that Iran's behavior "underlines the need for the international community to impose tough sanctions."

France today said the IAEA report shows how urgent it is to act with determination to respond to "Iran's lack of cooperation." French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told reporters the report "confirms precisely the very serious concerns of the international community" over Iran's nuclear activities.

Germany said Iran's continuation of a "dangerous nuclear policy" is forcing the international community to pursue further UN sanctions against the Islamic republic. "Of course Iran has the right to use nuclear energy for civil purposes, but it has no right to create nuclear weapons," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told reporters in Berlin.

Two German companies; reinsurer Munich Re AG and Allianz SE said today they will not renew existing business contracts in Iran.

On February 18, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that the IAEA report continues "to demonstrate the failure of the Iranian government to live up to its international obligations."

The U.S. news website "Politico" quoted an unnamed senior administration official as telling reporters that the report was "very disturbing."

"The increased level of noncooperation [with the IAEA] indicates to me that unless we can mount an international pressure [effort] to stop it, this program is heading more and more in the direction of seeking a weapons capability," "Politico" quoted the official as saying.

Iran Denies Making Weapon

Iran has reacted with anger to the IAEA report.

Today, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iranians "in no way believe in an atomic weapon and do not seek one."

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to the IAEA, told the official IRNA news agency that the report "verified the peaceful, nonmilitary nature of Iran's nuclear activities."

Soltanieh also suggested that the report was politically motivated. "My message starts with a simple question; the international community should ask a simple question." he said, "What is the aim or intention of a few Western countries by keeping this political tension in the IAEA?"

The UN nuclear watchdog's report, which was obtained by international news agencies, said Tehran had not yet resolved questions about documents that suggest Iran was engaged in experiments related to the development of nuclear warheads. Iran, which says all of its nuclear activities are peaceful, has dismissed the documents cited by IAEA as fabricated.

Speaking on condition of anonymity to "The New York Times," a European diplomat who works with the nuclear agency praised the report as tough and more tightly written than those written by former IAEA head Muhammad el-Baradei.

"It restricts Iran's ability to spin," the diplomat told the U.S. daily. "The new language makes it harder for Iran to cherry-pick the reports."

The report, which was sent to the UN Security Council, is expected to be discussed at an IAEA board meeting next week.

compiled from agency reports