IRAN: Washington pressures IAEA to condemn Tehran

Issue 

BY DOUG LORIMER

Washington's campaign to brand Iran as being in violation of its obligations under the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) will be bolstered by a report from the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The report, a copy of which was obtained by the Reuters news agency on June 6, will be presented by IAEA director-general Mohamed ElBaradei to the Vienna-based agency's 35-member board of governors on June 16.

With Russia's assistance, Iran is building a nuclear power plant at the port city of Bushehr and is also building a uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, in central Iran. An IAEA inspection team visited Iran's nuclear facilities in February.

According to Reuters, ElBaradei's report said Iran had "failed to meet its obligations" under the NPT because it had imported 1.8 tonnes of natural uranium in 1991 (an amount which could yield just 0.13 kilograms of enriched uranium for nuclear fuel), but had not declared the import or facilities for handling it to the IAEA until this year.

ElBaradei's report also said Iran was taking steps to comply with safeguards agreements that aim to ensure nuclear materials and facilities in NPT signatory states do not end up in secret weapons programs.

Commenting on the report at his weekly news conference on June 9, Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Hamid-Reza Asefi told reporters: "The IAEA has not been able to raise a single specific issue against Tehran over the past 12 years, and this shows that we have been transparent ... and have performed our commitments."

However, Washington claims that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons program. US officials claim the Natanz uranium enrichment plant will be used to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. Iran insists the facilities are meant only for power generation.

On June 11, while visiting Germany, US war secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Washington believed Iran was likely to have atomic weapons "in a relatively short period of time".

That same day, a "senior" US State Department official told reporters in Washington that ElBaradei's report was "devastating" and that the US would press the June 16 IAEA board meeting to issue a finding of Iranian "non-compliance" with the NPT, a decision that would give the US a trigger to demand the Security Council authorise Iraq-style sanctions against Iran.

Reuters quoted the anonymous US official as saying that the report was "consistent with our theory, our belief, that Iran has a clandestine nuclear weapons program."

The Associated Press account of the official's comments reported: "US intelligence believes that Iran, if left unchecked, could manufacture a nuclear weapon by the end of the decade, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

"The official also said the Bush administration rejects an offer by Iran to permit additional international monitoring of its nuclear development in exchange for the right to import advanced technology.

"The United States wants Iran to submit to further inspections without conditions, the official said."

The previous day, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran's atomic energy agency, said his country was willing to sign on to additional inspections under NPT if it gained access to technology that so far has been blocked by the IAEA. "We want the agency to end discrimination against us and allow all member states equal access to nuclear technology", Aghazadeh said.

US rulers have maintained a hostile policy toward Iran since the February 1979 revolution, when Iran's working people mobilised in their millions to overthrew the pro-US monarchist regime of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi — who had been installed in power in a CIA-organised coup in 1953.

The 1979 revolution destroyed one of the key pillars of US domination in the oil-rich Persian Gulf region, bringing to power a regime dominated by Islamic clerics, which, while it has rolled back many of the democratic gains that working people made in the revolution, has remained at odds with the US rulers.

In particular, the Islamic republic has denied US corporations control over Iran's oil and natural gas resources. Iran is the world's third largest exporter of oil — after Russia and Saudi Arabia — and is second only to Russia in its estimated reserves of natural gas.

US officials claim that because it has large reserves of fossil fuels, Iran does not need a nuclear power industry, and therefore must be using the development of such an industry as a cover for a secret nuclear weapons program.

However, Iran's nuclear power program began in the 1970s under the shah with encouragement from Washington, which urged Iran not to use its oil and gas reserves for domestic energy production but for earning export revenue.

From Green Left Weekly, June 18, 2003.

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