Bloomberg News

UN Atomic Agency’s First Iran Rebuke Since 2009 Shows Limits

November 20, 2011

(Updates with U.S. comments in fourth paragraph, Iranian ambassador comments in fifth through seventh paragraphs.)

Nov. 18 (Bloomberg) -- The United Nations atomic agency’s first diplomatic rebuke of Iran in two years showed divisions between nuclear powers that resulted in weakly worded criticism of Tehran’s alleged nuclear-weapons work.

In a resolution, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation board of governors “expressed deep and increasing concern” about atomic-bomb work alleged by credible UN sources to have taken place in Iran. The IAEA’s top decision-making body didn’t refer the new information to the Security Council.

“The stumbling block this week at the IAEA was that they were unable, because of conflict between Russia and western powers, to come up with a muscular resolution that would have gone to the Security Council to get the authority to get the answers they need,” Michael Adler, an analyst at the Woodrow Wilson International Center who has written about the IAEA’s Iran diplomacy for a decade, said in an interview in Vienna.

The U.S., in a statement issued by White House spokesman Jay Carney, said resolution reinforces “the world’s demands that Iran come clean and live up to its international obligations.”

Iran’s IAEA ambassador, Aliasghar Soltanieh, told reporters in Vienna today that his government will not agree to having a special agency delegation visit to try to resolve issues about Iran’s nuclear activities.

Weapons Free Zone

“I rule out now that there will be an IAEA visit,” he said.

Soltanieh also said Iran won’t participate in next week’s IAEA-sponsored meeting about making the Mideast a nuclear- weapons free zone. He said the decision reflects his country’s conclusion that it is being treated unfairly by the agency.

Today’s resolution rebuking Iran is the eleventh passed by the IAEA during its eight-year investigation of Iran. The two- page document’s language avoids harsh criticism. The resolution doesn’t “deplore” or “deeply regret” Iranian actions, as have past documents.

The IAEA announced on Nov. 8 that it had information inspectors deemed “credible” showing that Iranian scientists worked on nuclear-weapon components until at least 2010. Iran has dismissed the charges, called the evidence fake and said it only wants atomic power.

Russia-U.S. Split

“Information we have received in the last three years has given us a clearer picture,” IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said yesterday at a news conference in Vienna. “We work in a highly political environment. There are various views among member states.”

Russia criticized the IAEA’s decision to release the intelligence data while China reiterated that diplomacy is the only solution to the Iran nuclear issue.

“It reflects a new split between Russia and the U.S.,” Alexei Arbatov, a Carnegie Moscow Center analyst, said in an e- mailed reply to questions. Russia, which built and operates Iran’s only nuclear-power plant at Bushehr, is using the IAEA forum to voice displeasure with the U.S. over other issues, from missile defense in Europe to military action in Libya, he said.

“The United States remains committed to a diplomatic resolution to the international community’s concerns with Iran’s nuclear program,” U.S. IAEA envoy Glyn Davies said in a statement. “We urge Iran to take this opportunity to reevaluate its posture and its actions.”

The IAEA’s last resolution against Iran was passed in 2009 after a secret uranium-enrichment facility was discovered being built inside a fortified mountainside.

The latest IAEA report details “Iran’s systematic efforts to develop a nuclear weapon” and exposes “the hollowness of Iran’s claims” that its work is limited to civilian nuclear purposes, Carney said in a statement.

The U.S. will continue to work with other countries to pressure Iran because “we are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons,” he said.

--Editors: Terry Atlas, Justin Blum

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Tirone in Vienna at jtirone@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net


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