Sunday, November 13, 2005

IAEA Chief to Press Iran on Compromise

CBS News:
The head of the U.N. nuclear monitoring agency has thrown his weight behind a plan calling on Iran to move its uranium enrichment program to Russia, and he may fly to Tehran within days to push for the proposal, a European official and diplomats said Sunday.

The initiative by International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei is meant to persuade the Iranians to accept the plan, despite their initial rejection.

On Saturday, the head of Iran's nuclear agency ruled out the compromise proposal, saying uranium enrichment must occur in Iran. The rejection by Gholamreza Aghazadeh was made without seeing the plan.

But the European official and a diplomat close to the agency downplayed Aghazadeh's reaction and said the plan would be presented to the Iranians by ElBaradei and senior agency officials. The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Speaking from outside Vienna, the European official told the AP that ElBaradei was acting with the approval of the European Union and the United States, which have endorsed the arrangement as a way to reduce the threat Iran would use enrichment to make nuclear arms.

"The onus is on ElBaradei," the official said, adding that Iran had little choice but to accept the proposal if it wanted to avoid the likelihood of a European-U.S. push to have it referred to the U.N. Security Council. The IAEA's 35-nation board will consider referring Iran when it meets in the Austrian capital Nov. 24.

Washington says Iran is aiming to produce nuclear warheads. Tehran says its program is solely to produce electricity and insists it has the right to develop the entire nuclear fuel cycle on its own.

Uranium in its natural state does not have a sufficiently high concentration of fissile isotopes for it to be used in nuclear reactors or weapons, and the concentration must be raised through the enrichment process.

Aghazadeh rejection of the plan came after he spoke with Russian envoy Igor Ivanov. But a diplomat close to the IAEA suggested the deal was far from dead, with not only Russia and ElBaradei but China, South Africa and other influential Iranian allies exerting pressure on the leadership to soften its stance. READ MORE

A diplomat accredited to the IAEA told the AP that a position paper outlining the proposal was passed to the Russians about a week ago.