New York, Nov 2 2009 1:10PM
The outgoing head of the United Nations atomic watchdog today urged Tehran not to delay in responding to the draft agreement on fuel for its civilian nuclear research site, and called for transparency and cooperation to address outstanding issues related to Iran’s nuclear programme.
The agreement, put forward nearly two weeks ago during talks at the Vienna headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (http://www.iaea.org/), concerns fuel for use at a research reactor in Tehran which produces medical radioisotopes for therapeutic and diagnostic procedures.
Last week Iran informed IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei that it is “considering the proposal in depth and in a favourable light,” but needed more time to provide a response. The other three parties to the talks – France, Russia and the United States – have all indicated their approval of the agreement.
“Addressing the concerns of the international community about Iran’s future intentions is primarily a matter of confidence-building, which can only be achieved through dialogue,” Mr. ElBaradei said in his final address to the UN General Assembly as head of the IAEA.
“I therefore urge Iran to be as forthcoming as possible in responding soon to my recent proposal, based on the initiative of the US, Russia and France, which aimed to engage Iran in a series of measures that could build confidence and trust and open the way for comprehensive and substantive dialogue between Iran and the international community,” he stated.
He added that trust and confidence-building are an incremental process that requires focusing on the big picture and a willingness to take risks for peace.
Iran has stated that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes, but some other countries contend it is driven by military ambitions. The issue has been of international concern since the discovery in 2003 that the country had concealed its nuclear activities for 18 years in breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
“As a result of difficult and painstaking work, the agency has acquired a better understanding of Iran’s civil nuclear programme,” said the Director General.
“Nevertheless, a number of questions and allegations relevant to the nature of that programme are still outstanding and need to be clarified by Iran through transparency and cooperation with the agency.”
Mr. ElBaradei, who has headed the IAEA since 1998, also highlighted the case of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), which the agency reported to the Security Council 16 years ago for non-compliance with its non-proliferation obligations. Since that time, he said, the country has moved from the likely possession of undeclared plutonium to acquiring nuclear weapons.
“The on-again, off-again nature of the dialogue between the DPRK and the international community has stymied the resolution of this issue,” he stated.
In addition, he lamented the “tragic war” that was launched in Iraq “on the basis of a false pretext, without authorization from the Security Council, and despite the agency and the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) having found no evidence that Iraq had revived its nuclear weapons programme or programmes involving other weapons of mass destruction.
“It gives me no consolation that the agency’s findings were subsequently vindicated,” he said.
In July, the IAEA’s Board of Governors chose Yukiya Amano, a Japanese diplomat with a lengthy record of working on disarmament and non-proliferation issues, to succeed Mr. ElBaradei when he steps down at the end of November.