U.S. seeks more U.N. sanctions on Iran
The latest IAEA report was hailed by Iran's president as a 'historic victory." But the US still sees evidence of a weapons program.
TEHRAN, Iran and ISTANBUL, Turkey
Iranian and American officials are drawing diametrically opposed interpretations from the latest report by the United Nation's nuclear watchdog. That sets the stage this week for a third UN sanctions resolution against a defiant Iran.Skip to next paragraph
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The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported on Friday that Iran had made "quite good progress" in resolving longstanding questions, but that new issues raised by US intelligence documents means the agency can't yet determine the "full nature of Iran's nuclear program."
The IAEA says "alleged studies" into high-explosives testing and design of a missile reentry vehicle "could have a military nuclear dimension." Iran says the information – gleaned from a lap top computer that US officials say was stolen from inside Iran – is "baseless" and "fabricated."
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hailed the IAEA report as a "historic victory" for Iran, adding that "our schoolchildren can make forgeries better than they [US spy agencies] do."
The firebrand president dismissed any further UN sanctions over Iran's refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. "They could spend 100 years passing resolutions but it wouldn't change anything," said Mr. Ahmadinejad, warning of "firm reprisals."
The IAEA reported greater Iranian cooperation with access and documentation, a string of unannounced inspections, and no diversion of declared nuclear material. But it also said Iran has not suspended uranium enrichment – as required by the UN Security Council – and instead progressed with a more advanced centrifuge design that can enrich uranium 2.5 times faster.
American officials said the IAEA report energizes their push for another set of sanctions, an effort put in doubt since December when a US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) concluded that Iran had halted a nuclear weapons program in late 2003.
"There is very good reason after this [IAEA] report to proceed to a third Security Council resolution," said US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, adding that it "demonstrates that whatever the Iranians may be doing to try to clean up some elements of the past, it is inadequate."
The hard-line Tehran newspaper "Hizbullah" published a banner headline "Iran vindicated," the Associated Press reported. Hard-line students proclaiming victory against US charges handed out sweets in central Tehran.
"The most important thing about the third [set of UN sanctions] is to have a show of consensus; the substance of the sanctions is secondary," a Western diplomat in Tehran says.
But he raises questions about the utility of a US-led strategy that requires Iran to suspend uranium enrichment before any talks can begin.
"It is unfortunate that the whole focus is on suspension, as if that were the issue. The issue is a weapons program. So now there is a political deadlock that will lead to the loss of face with the world," says the diplomat. Iran is not likely now to suspend under any circumstances, he adds, because Iran has "reached a national consensus that 'it's our right, it's our achievement, it's our smartness.' How can you fight against that?"