by Staff Writers
Vienna (AFP) Sept 8, 2012
Western countries will seek to tighten further the screw on Iran at a meeting of UN atomic agency member states from Monday following the watchdog's latest damning report on Tehran's nuclear programme.
It was however unclear whether Russia and China would support a tough-talking resolution, possibly even reporting Iran to the UN Security Council, at the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors meeting in Vienna.
"Iran has done anything but comply with its obligations," one senior Western official based in Vienna said ahead of the week-long gathering. "The board needs to speak very clearly and in a unified way.
"We certainly believe a resolution is necessary ... The belt is tightening around Iran and we hope that they will take heed."
An IAEA report last week added to suspicions -- not only in the West and Israel but elsewhere -- that Iran is not telling the truth when it says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.
The agency said that Iran had doubled since May the number of uranium enrichment centrifuges at its underground Fordo facility and that a suspected clean-up at the Parchin military base would "significantly hamper" inspectors.
Enriched uranium can be used for peaceful purposes but also in a nuclear bomb. Because the IAEA cannot be sure which use Iran has in mind, multiple UN Security Council and IAEA board resolutions have called on Tehran to suspend enrichment.
The UN Security Council has also imposed four rounds of sanctions on Iran, measures which have been augmented by additional Western restrictions in recent months targeting Iran's life-blood oil industry.
The IAEA also wants Iran to address evidence it has amassed suggesting that Iran carried out nuclear weapons research at least until 2003 and possibly since, including at Parchin near Tehran in a "large explosives containment vessel."
Commercially available satellite imagery shown to IAEA member states at a briefing on Wednesday by chief inspector Herman Nackaerts showed what the agency's report called "extensive activities and resultant changes".
Whether Moscow and Beijing, traditionally seen as softer on Iran than their Western counterparts in the UN Security Council, will see the utility of another IAEA resolution -- it would be the 12th -- is unclear, however.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, Moscow's representative in currently stalled talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany (the P5+1), on Thursday criticised Tehran.
He said that Iran's "right" to nuclear energy also came with "obligations" and that "in our opinion, the Iranian side should cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency in a more active and intensive manner", Interfax reported.
But he also made a point of stressing that with IAEA inspectors constantly monitoring Iran's activities, the agency's report had also made clear that there were "no signs of the Iranian nuclear programme having a military component".
A second Western diplomat in Vienna told AFP that he hoped that by passing "some sort of consensus response", the board might also help to persuade Israel that diplomacy was worth pursuing.
Speculation that Israel might bomb Iran has grown, although it is unclear if this is bluff to pressure US President Barack Obama, seeking re-election in November, into taking a harder line.
"One would hope this would send a message to the outside world, including countries with more bellicose intentions towards Iran, that the IAEA board remains united in trying to keep up diplomatic pressure," the envoy said.
"If the Israelis are serious about attacking Iran, they may perceive that before the US election they will have more leverage over the American response, and following the election they will certainly have less," said analyst Mark Hibbs.
"I think that the diplomats, with this in mind, would be well advised not to escalate the crisis between now and November. I don't think you will see a major sanctions initiative by the P5+1 at this meeting," Hibbs, from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told AFP.
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Outside View: Unleash Iran's opponents
London (UPI) Sep 7, 2012
A funny thing happened during Tehran's effort to present itself as a major player on the world stage and in Middle East diplomacy: the largest country in the region criticized in no uncertain terms the actions of Iran's client state, Syria. Iranian leaders thought they had pulled a major coup by hosting a meeting of the Nonaligned Movement, the largest international gathering in the cou ... read more
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