Iran Criticized for Not Providing Nuclear Data
Elaine Sciolino, The New York Times:
As Iran weighed how to respond to an international package of incentives aimed at curbing its nuclear activities, the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency faulted Tehran today for failing to provide information crucial to understanding fully the nature and intent of its nuclear program.
In prepared remarks in Vienna opening the agency's 35-country board meeting, the I.A.E.A. chief, Mohammed ElBaradei, said that his agency "has not made much progress in resolving outstanding verification issues."
He added, "I would continue to urge Iran to provide the cooperation needed to resolve these issues." READ MORE
Mr. ElBaradei's assessment was expected. Since February, Iran has substantially reduced inspection access to dozens of atomic sites, programs and personnel, abiding only by the minimum cooperation required under arms-control accords.
But the quarterly board meeting of the United Nations' nuclear monitoring agency comes at a delicate diplomatic moment as Iran is considering an ambitious offer by the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany to freeze its major nuclear activities in exchange for the promise of economic and political incentives.
In this politically charged atmosphere, Mr. ElBaradei, the current holder of the Nobel Peace Prize, kept his comments on Iran to two paragraphs and declined to take questions from reporters.
Still, he made clear that he welcomes the initiative by the six powers, calling it a way "to reach a comprehensive agreement that would address the need of the international community to establish confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program, while also simultaneously addressing Iran's security, technology and economic needs."
The incentives package, the details of which have not been made public, offers Iran the chance, among other things, to buy light-water nuclear reactors for energy purposes and new civilian airplanes and spare parts for its aging fleet, as well as to hold substantive talks with the United States.
Iran would be required to agree to freeze its uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities before formal talks on the substance of the package could begin, and the freeze would continue until Iran met a strict list of requirements. Because of opposition from the United States, the package does not include an offer to open an inter-governmental dialogue with Iran about security issues.
In his remarks, Mr. ElBaradei did not refer to the fact that Iran restarted enriching uranium at its vast Natanz site last Tuesday, the same day that the incentives package was presented to the government in Tehran.
The remarks serve as a summary of a report on the agency's most recent inspections of Iran's nuclear plants. That report will be presented to the I.A.E.A. board later this week.
At a European Union foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg today, Javier Solana, the union's foreign policy chief, said he expected an initial response from Iran at any time.
Mr. Solana, who delivered the incentives package in Tehran, said he had not given Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, a set deadline, but he said a response was expected in "a reasonable period of time," which was defined as about two weeks.
That means that Iran's comments on the package could come "any time now," or "about this week," Mr. Solana said.
Mr. Larijani has indicated that there are "ambiguities" and "weak points" in the package, and it is possible that Iran's first response will be a request for clarifications rather than an outright acceptance or rejection of the package.
In Tehran today, an Iranian government spokesman, Gholam Hossein Elham, suggested that the country was unwilling to bend to the demands of the outside world and freeze its enrichment-related activities.
"Iran has achieved nuclear fuel technology," he told reporters. "And we will not negotiate our absolute right with anyone."