Thursday, January 19, 2006

ElBaradei rejects EU’s request to condemn Iran

Daniel Dombey in Brussels and Roula Khalaf in London, Financial Times:
Iran nuclearMohamed ElBaradei, the head of the UN’s nuclear monitor, has turned down a request by the European Union to issue a far-reaching condemnation of Iran’s nuc­lear programme when the agency’s board meets in extraordinary session next month.

Mr ElBaradei’s reports set the tone for the international debate on the issue, so his decision could weaken US-European efforts for a speedy referral of Iran to the UN Security Council.

The director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been frustrated by Iran’s resumption of nuclear research – the move that set off US and European attempts to send the issue to the Security Council – as well as by a slowdown in Iranian co-operation with his inspectors. He has informed Tehran it has until the end of next month to give his inspectors improved access to documents and sites.

Only if Iran does not accede would he be ready to declare his investigation was no longer making progress and that his hands were tied.

Diplomats said leading European governments had asked Mr ElBaradei to make an earlier report, ahead of the February 2-3 meeting of the IAEA board.

ElBaradei has refused because he believes in due process,” said an official close to the agency.He has said that the next report will be for the [regular] March 6 board and he can’t just advance that report.” READ MORE

Mr ElBaradei may still issue a summary next month that would detail Iran’s decision to restart some “research” work at its Natanz nuclear facility, as well as other violations of its suspension of activities related to uranium enrichment. But he would not then address the wider issues concerning Iran’s alleged failure to demonstrate its nuclear programme is peaceful.

The decision was made by the IAEA chief as Iran steps up its own diplomatic efforts. Last Sunday Mr ElBaradei met Ali Larijani, Iran’s chief negotiator, who is believed to have asked for more time. Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, Iran’s president, began a trip on Thursday to Syria, a traditional ally of Iran and one of the 35 members of the IAEA governing board.

European diplomats say they are confident of winning a majority of votes to send the Iran dossier to New York, but a thin majority could slow down the momentum for censuring Iran at the UN. US and European officials are continuing discussions with Russia and China, two of the most important members of the board, to try to secure their agreement for a referral.

China said it was waiting to see a draft IAEA resolution prepared by EU governments before deciding. Russia has proposed a Security Council debate but wants to hold off a formal decision on referral until March.