Iran under pressure over weapons at IAEA meeting

March 3rd, 2008 - 2:10 pm ICT by admin  

Vienna, March 3 (DPA) Western nations are turning up the heat for Tehran at the UN nuclear watchdog’s Board of Governors meeting starting Monday, demanding answers from Iran over intelligence on alleged covert weaponisation studies. At the weeklong meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), several members of the 35-nation board are considering tabling a resolution against Iran, the first in two years, urging Tehran to come clean, diplomats in Vienna said.

A final decision on an IAEA resolution, however, depended on the adoption of a third sanctions resolution by the UN Security Council Monday.

Iran dismissed intelligence on these studies - including high explosives testing, uranium conversion and the design of a missile re-entry vehicle, all of which can be geared towards making nuclear weapons - as fabrications, and refused to discuss the matter any further.

Iran’s senior envoy at the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh also challenged the IAEA’s mandate to investigate these issues.

While Iran maintains its nuclear programme is solely aimed at generating electricity, Western mistrust runs deep, as the country concealed its nuclear activities from the UN nuclear watchdog for almost two decades.

Iran insists its nuclear file is closed, saying the IAEA noted in its Feb 22 report that Tehran answered all other outstanding issues. Diplomats close to the agency said IAEA inspectors were waiting for Iran to explain why it believed those documents were fakes.

The IAEA received the documents from several member states, some of it from a laptop with data apparently smuggled out of Iran and handed over to US intelligence.

Board members are divided on the issue, with members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) stressing Iran’s improved cooperation on clarifying its nuclear past, as pointed out by IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei in his report.

A split in the board over a resolution could weaken the IAEA and cause Iran’s willingness to cooperate to deteriorate, diplomats from developing countries argued.

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