The Board of Governors of the United Nations atomic watchdog agency today suspended 22 technical aid projects in Iran in conformity with sanctions imposed by the Security Council over a programme that Tehran says is for producing energy but which critics maintain is for making nuclear weapons.
The UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board’s decision followed a report by IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei that Iran had continued uranium enrichment, which can produce fuel for generating electricity or, at a much higher level, make nuclear bombs, despite the Council’s call in December that it suspend such activities.
In his report Mr. ElBaradei said that because of the lack of “the necessary level of transparency and cooperation” from Iran, the IAEA could not provide assurances that the Iranian programme was solely for peaceful purposes and stressed that the issue was in a class of its own because of Tehran’s two decades of undeclared activities in breach of its obligations under Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
While the IAEA has been able to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran, it continues to be unable to reconstruct fully the history of Iran’s nuclear programme and some of its components, and “quite a few uncertainties still remain about experiments, procurements and other activities relevant to our understanding of the scope and nature of Iran’s programme,” he added.
It was the discovery in 2003 of Iran’s hidden activities that gave rise to the current crisis and he stressed that “the IAEA’s confidence about the nature of Iran’s programme has been shaken because of two decades of undeclared activities.”
Mr. ElBaradei has suggested a “timeout” to allow for talks, with Iran suspending uranium enrichment and the international community suspending sanctions. Meanwhile, the Council’s five permanent members – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States – together with Germany are now considering what further action to take.
The talk among them is “about how to continue with the negotiated process, while at the same time being ready to increase the pressure should that be necessary,” Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo of South Africa, which holds the 15-member body’s rotating presidency, told reporters on Tuesday.
“Right now we understand they are discussing the elements of what would be in the draft [resolution] if it comes before us,” he said, naming four elements under consideration: a travel ban; greater movement restrictions on either entities or persons; arms exports; and financial arrangements.