The United Nations agency entrusted with curbing the spread of nuclear weapons met today to discuss Iran’s nuclear programme, a day after the major oil producer re-started activities at a uranium conversion plant, with its chief hoping the present problem is “simply a hiccup in the process and not a permanent rupture.”
The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors convened at the request of France, Germany and the United Kingdom, which have been seeking a negotiated solution to issues arising out of the disclosure two years ago that Iran had for almost two decades concealed its nuclear activities in breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The Board has the power to refer the issue to the UN Security Council which could impose sanctions. Speaking to reporters in Vienna, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei called on all parties to exercise maximum restraint, desist from taking any unilateral actions and continue the negotiation process.
Iran voluntarily suspended operations last year of all uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities during the negotiations on its programme, which it insists is for peaceful energy production but which some countries, including the United States, say is part of an effort to produce nuclear weapons.
But yesterday it re-started activities at the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) in Isfahan after rejecting the latest proposals from the three European Union (EU) countries, known as the EU-3. Enriched uranium can be used for peaceful purposes such as generating energy or for making nuclear weapons and the EU-3 have said a resumption of nuclear activities would mean the end of the negotiations.
Mr. ElBaradei said Iran’s action essentially unravelled the suspension of enrichment related and conversion activities at the Isfahan plant.
“The Board has clearly stated in the past that although suspension of enrichment related and conversion activities in the Islamic Republic of Iran is a voluntary decision, it is nonetheless essential for confidence-building and for resolution of outstanding issues relevant to Iran's past undeclared nuclear activities,” he declared.
“I don't believe that any of these issues can be resolved outside the negotiating process. Confidence building is a long-term process and requires a dialogue. I would request all parties to exercise maximum restraint, to desist from taking any unilateral action and to try to go back to where we were a week ago, basically, continue to work with the Agency to clarify outstanding verification issues and continue to work with Europe on a long-term framework agreement by which Iran's relationship with the West will be normalized,” he added.
“This is good for Iran, this is good for regional security and this is good for the international community,” he said.