Thursday, November 26, 2009

IAEA to Vote on Demand Iran Freeze New Nuclear Site

Tweet It!


World powers are demanding that Iran immediately mothball a uranium enrichment site it hid for years, heightening fears it is secretly planning to build atom bombs, in a resolution drafted by the U.N. nuclear watchdog. Diplomats forecast majority approval for the resolution in a vote by the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) 35-nation governing board on Thursday or Friday in what would be its first action against Iran in almost four years. The move reflects dismay over Iran's September disclosure of a second enrichment site it had been building clandestinely for two years, and frustration at Iran's holdup of an IAEA-brokered plan to give it fuel for its nuclear medical program if it parts with enriched uranium that could be used in weapons. The last IAEA board resolution passed against Iran was in February 2006, when governors referred Tehran's case to the U.N. Security Council over its refusal to suspend enrichment and open up completely to IAEA inspections and investigations. The new measure's sponsors were the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, the sextet locked in a long standoff with Iran over its shadowy enrichment activity, alleged nuclear bomb research and restrictions on IAEA inspections. Russian and Chinese support is significant, and expected to secure rare developing nation votes against Iran at the IAEA, since the two have often blocked a united stance against Iran in international security bodies.

But it was unclear whether Moscow and Beijing's expression of disenchantment with Iran, an important trade partner for both, would translate into readiness for harsher U.N. sanctions Western powers will push for if the fuel deal falls through. A November 16 IAEA report said Iran violated a transparency statute by admitting the existence of the Fordow enrichment site only two months ago, at least two years after building began, and raised concern it could be harboring more secret sites. Iran had previously assured the IAEA it was not concealing nuclear activity with potential weapons applications. The draft resolution, a restricted copy of which was obtained by Reuters, urged Iran to immediately halt construction of the Fordow plant, clarify its original purpose, and confirm it has no more hidden atomic activity or covert plans for any. It voiced "serious concern" -- a diplomatic euphemism for alarm -- over its cover-up of the Fordow project and said it was in blatant breach of U.N. demands for an enrichment suspension. It also called on Iran to shelve all enrichment-related activity as demanded by Security Council resolutions since 2006, grant unfettered IAEA inspections and open up to an IAEA probe into suspicions it conducted illicit nuclear weapons research. (Read more...)