The UN is pulling their staff. Expecting a bombing campaign, are we?
Thursday March 8, 2007 12:31 PM
AP Photo XPZ111
By GEORGE JAHN
Associated Press Writer
VIENNA, Austria (AP) - Delegates to a 35-nation meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Thursday approved the suspension of nearly two dozen nuclear technical aid programs to Iran as part of U.N. sanctions imposed because its nuclear defiance.
A defiant Tehran said it would not bow to pressure on its nuclear program.
The decision to deprive Iran of 22 projects was taken by consensus and was expected. Even nations on the IAEA board normally supportive of Iran backed it because it was recommended by agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, on authority of the U.N. Security Council.
``I have not heard anyone express dissatisfaction'' with ElBaradei's recommendations, said Ramzy Ezzeidin Ramzy, Egypt's chief IAEA representative, before the decision, reflecting the meeting's widespread unanimity on the issue.
Chief Iranian delegate Ali Ashgar Soltanieh dismissed the decision, along with other international moves to pressure his country to suspend uranium enrichment, as the work of a ``few countries ... to deprive Iran from its inalienable rights for (the) peaceful use of nuclear energy.''
The ``Iranian nation is a peace-loving nation but will never tolerate any pressure or intimidation,'' he told the meeting.
He also said Israel's undeclared nuclear program endangers ``both regional peace and security.''
Those comments were in response to a letter from 17 Arab nations plus Palestinian authorities that called for Israel to be put under agency inspections. The letter asserted that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last year acknowledged that his country had nuclear weapons - something Olmert has denied doing.
Israel, in a brief statement, said it had no plans to change its nuclear policies, said an IAEA official who was inside the closed meeting and spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
The suspensions of technical cooperation fell under the provision of U.N. Security Council sanctions agreed Dec. 23 to punish Iran for defying a council demand that it freeze its uranium enrichment activities. The five permanent council members now are consulting on additional sanctions after Tehran ignored a new ultimatum to stop enrichment last month.
Council diplomats in New York said these could include a travel ban, an expanded list of people and companies subject to an asset freeze, an arms embargo and trade restrictions, but they cautioned that differences remained.
While Iran says it has the legal right to develop an enrichment program to generate nuclear power, the Security Council has called on it to end such activities because of fears it could misuse the process to produce fissile material for warheads.
Before the decision on technical aid, Soltanieh accused the United States and Israel of threatening military attacks on its nuclear facilities and said Security Council sanctions against his country were illegal.
Washington in turn criticized Tehran for ignoring Security Council demands to freeze enrichment and said Iranian ``intransigence'' in answering questions about its nuclear program raises the level of concern that it might be seeking to make atomic arms.
Those comments, inside and on the sidelines of the meeting, came as part of a review of a report by ElBaradei that confirmed Iran had defied a Security Council deadline on enrichment last month.
Soltanieh accused the U.S. and Israel of ``continuing to make threats against Iran's ... (nuclear) facilities.'' But he suggested that Tehran's nuclear program would survive any aggression, citing ElBaradei in declaring that nuclear ``knowledge cannot be bombed.''
While not directly threatening attacks, both Israel and the U.S. have not ruled out any option in trying to stop what they say is an Iranian nuclear weapons program.
Soltanieh denied such aims, saying: ``Weapons of mass destruction have no place in the Islamic Republic of Iran's defense doctrine.'' Iran steadfastly insists it is not interested in nuclear arms and wants to enrich uranium not to create the fissile core of warheads but to generate energy.
Outside the meeting, he attributed international pressure on Iran to give up enrichment to ``the poisonous food served up by a few (IAEA) members and sent to New York,'' to the Security Council.
Reflecting the U.S. stance, chief delegate Gregory L. Schulte accused Iran of ignoring ``the serious international concerns expressed by the Security Council'' in demanding a freeze of enrichment.
Schulte also criticized Iran for continuing to build facilities that will produce plutonium - another possible pathway to nuclear arms - and thus again ignoring a Security Council demand. He cited ElBaradei in saying that his agency cannot conclude that Iran's program is peaceful unless Tehran stops stonewalling on questions posed by his agency. And he urged Tehran to reverse a ban on 38 IAEA inspectors, all from countries that back Security Council action against the Islamic republic.
On North Korea, Japan and other nations urged Pyongyang to honor its commitments under a six-nation deal that ultimately commits it to scrap its nuclear weapons program. ElBaradei plans to go to the communist nation March 13 as part of the agreement, a possible prelude to the return of IAEA monitors after a more than four-year hiatus.
Associated Press writer Palma Benczenleitner contributed to this report.
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