Iranian cooperation and transparency crucial, UN nuclear watchdog chief says

Iranian cooperation and transparency crucial, UN nuclear watchdog chief says

"Active cooperation and transparency" on Iran's part are key in resolving outstanding issues over the country's nuclear ambitions, the head of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told the General Assembly today.

"If the Agency were able to provide credible assurance about the peaceful nature of Iran's past and currently nuclear programme, this would go a long way towards building confidence, and could create the conditions for a comprehensive and durable solution," IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said at a General Assembly plenary meeting in New York.

"Such a solution would assure the international community about the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme, while enabling Iran to make full use of nuclear technology for economic and social development."

He noted that Iran's agreement -- following repeated requests by the Security Council and the IAEA' Board of Governors -- on a work plan to get to the bottom of all unresolved verification issues is "an important step in the right direction."

Iran's nuclear programme has been a matter of international concern since the discovery in 2003 that it had concealed its nuclear activities for 18 years in breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Last December, the Security Council adopted a resolution banning trade with Iran in all items, materials, equipment, goods and technology which could contribute to the country's enrichment-related, reprocessing or heavy water-related activities, or to the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems. It tightened the measures in March, banning arms sales and expanding the freeze on assets.

"Contrary to the decisions of the Security Council, calling on Iran to take certain confidence building measures, Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities, and is continuing with its construction of the heavy water reactor at Arak," Mr. ElBaradei said today. "This is regrettable."

The Director General also told the Assembly that in the face of a renewed interest in nuclear power worldwide, the role of the IAEA is "not so much to predict the future as to do its utmost to plan and prepare for it."

The resurgence of interest in nuclear power is driven by the steady rise in demand for energy, increased concerns regarding energy security and the challenges posed by climate change, he said.

At present, there are 439 operating nuclear power reactors in 30 countries which supply some 15 per cent of the world's electricity and the use of nuclear power has been primarily in industrialized countries.

"But in terms of new construction, the pattern is different: half of the 30 reactors now being built are in developing countries," he pointed out.