Iran nuclear dispute takes centre stage at IAEA meet

March 3rd, 2008 - 7:32 pm ICT by admin  

Vienna, March 3 (DPA) The UN nuclear watchdog said Monday a fullfledged investigation into questions regarding possible attempts by Iran to pursue nuclear weapons needed yet to take place. Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told the agency’s regular March meeting the issue still needed clarification, despite “encouraging” progress on other outstanding issues.

“The agency will follow the required process in continuing to clarify both the authenticity of the documentation related to the alleged studies, to the extent possible, and substantive matters concerned,” he said.

Iran stressed it was not going to discuss the matter any further and blasted a new UN Security Council resolution for jeopardising the work of the UN nuclear watchdog.

“Any Security Council resolution is an arrow at the heart of the IAEA,” Iran’s chief envoy, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told reporters ahead of the weeklong meeting.

The UN Security Council is expected to vote on a third sanctions resolution against Iran late Monday morning in New York.

ElBaradei confirmed that Iran continued to ignore UN demands to halt its controversial uranium enrichment drive. Enriched uranium can - as claimed by Iran - used to produce nuclear fuel, or if enriched further, to build nuclear weapons.

The IAEA however added that Iran had made no move to expand its enrichment capabilities and was working its existing enrichment centrifuges below capacity.

Soltanieh stressed the IAEA’s latest report had given Iran “a clean bill of health on all its peaceful nuclear activities,” and said allegations of alleged covert weaponisation studies - including high explosives testing, uranium conversion and the design of a missile re-entry vehicle - were fabricated.

“We have given our final assessment all issues regarding alleged weaponisation and the work plan are concluded,” he said.

His assessment is strongly disputed by western nations. US Ambassador Gregory Schulte said the board would review Iran’s file, which “remained open”.

Several members of the IAEA’s 35-nation board, led by European nations France, Britain and Germany are considering tabling a resolution against Iran.

It would be the first in two years, since the IAEA reported Iran to the Security Council for violating its obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

A final decision on an IAEA resolution, however, depended on events in New York and on whether a division in the IAEA board between western states and developing countries threatened to grow to big to prevent agreeing on a strong resolution, diplomats said.

ElBaradei urged Iran to heed Security Council demands in order to boost international confidence about its nuclear activities.

“Building confidence in the future is a matter that goes beyond inspections,” he said, calling for a comprehensive negotiated settlement for the issue.

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