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Ban Ki-moon ‘deeply concerned’ by Iran’s refusal to suspend uranium enrichment

Ban Ki-moon ‘deeply concerned’ by Iran’s refusal to suspend uranium enrichment

Ban Ki-moon and Austrian Foreign Minister Plassnik
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today he was “deeply concerned” that Iran had not met the Security Council deadline to suspend uranium enrichment, stressing that the country’s nuclear programme had great implications for peace, stability and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

“I urge again that the Iranian Government fully comply with the Security Council as soon as possible” to engage in continued negotiation “with the international community so that we will be able to address and peacefully resolve this issue,” he told reporters in Vienna, Austria, where he is on an official visit.

Uranium enrichment can produce fuel either for nuclear energy, which Iran says is its only goal, or for making nuclear weapons, which other countries, including European nations and the United States, maintain is its main aim.

In December, the Council imposed sanctions, banning trade of all materials, equipment, goods and technology that could contribute to Iran’s enrichment-related, reprocessing or heavy water-related activities, or to the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems, and gave the Government until 21 February to suspend “proliferation sensitive nuclear activities,” including all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.

The Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, today submitted a report on Iran’s latest activities to the 15-member Council, which can impose further sanctions.

“I’m sure that members of the Security Council will discuss what measures they will take in addition to what they have taken last December,” Mr. Ban said. “As the Director General of the IAEA is finally going to report his recommendations to the Security Council, it is now up to the members of the Security Council to determine what kind of measures they will take in the future.”

In recent reports, Mr. ElBaradei has noted that while the IAEA has not seen any diversion of material to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, it also cannot conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran. The crisis began with the discovery in 2003 that Iran had concealed its nuclear activities for 18 years in breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Mr. Ban compared the Iranian nuclear issue with that of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK), calling the recent accord in Six-Party talks under which the DPRK committed to dismantle eventually all nuclear weapon facilities and materials “a very important step forward” towards a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula.

“I hope this will also give some good lessons to the Iranian authorities that it is always better, always desirable, to resolve all of the issues through dialogue,” he said.

Turning to the Middle East, Mr. Ban said yesterday’s meeting in Berlin of the diplomatic Quartet – the UN, European Union, Russia, and United States – which is seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was “very useful and constructive” but he stressed the need to monitor the new Palestinian unity government between Hamas, which won elections last year but has yet to recognize Israel, and Fatah.

“We will have to closely monitor how the Palestinian people, after establishing this national unity government, will fully comply with the principles set out by the Quartet, namely the recognition of the right of Israel and the cessation of violence and adherence to all previous agreements and obligations agreed with the international community,” he added.

Mr. Ban, who will be in Vienna until tomorrow, met today with Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, with whom he had a working luncheon attended by Foreign Ministers in the region.

He was later due to confer with Austrian President Heinz Fischer and the Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer.