11/18/2011

Nuclear Watchdog Seeks Mission to Iran

THE NEW YORK TIMES By ALAN COWELL November 17, 2011 LONDON — Adding new pressures on Tehran over its disputed nuclear program, the head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog said on Thursday he wanted to send a high-level mission to Iran to investigate a report by his agency that Iranian scientists had engaged in secret and possibly "ongoing" efforts to construct a nuclear weapon. Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, was addressing the I.A.E.A.'s 35-member board of governors at the start of a closed, two-day meeting at its headquarters in Vienna. The gathering is trying to formulate a resolution reprimanding Iran and seeking greater clarity about its nuclear intentions while avoiding language that would prevent support from China and Russia — two nations that have frequently differed with the West over Iran. The Associated Press quoted diplomats as calling the resolution a compromise that would express "serious concern" over Iran's defiance of the United Nations Security Council and the I.A.E.A. board. While avoiding any talk of an ultimatum or deadline, a draft of the resolution also spoke of "deep and increasing concern about the unresolved issues regarding the Iranian nuclear program, including those which need to be clarified to exclude the existence of possible military dimensions," the A.P. said. Mr. Amano said he had written to Fereydoon Abbasi, the head of Iran's atomic energy agency, on Nov. 2 to suggest the visit. "I hope a suitable date can be agreed soon. It is essential that any such mission should be well planned and that it should address the issues contained in my report," Mr. Amano said. There was no immediate word of a response from Iran. "Preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons is one of the I.A.E.A. 's core responsibilities," Mr. Amano told the meeting, according to a text released by the I.A.E.A.. "Throughout the past three years, we have obtained additional information which gives us a fuller picture of Iran's nuclear programme and increases our concerns about possible military dimensions," he said. "The information indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device," Mr. Amano said. "I ask Iran to engage substantively" with the I.A.E.A. "without delay and provide the requested clarifications regarding possible military dimensions to its nuclear program," Mr. Amano said. He said I.A.E.A. technical experts had gathered information about Iran's nuclear program "painstakingly and objectively" and his organization believed the findings to be "overall, credible." Some activities "relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device," he said,"may still be ongoing." The report has divided the world powers seeking to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program and has drawn a sharp response from Tehran. Analysts said Iran's leaders seemed worried that the report could deepen Iran's isolation, undermining its frequent claims that Tehran's nuclear program is designed to produce energy for civilian use, not weapons. In remarks on Wednesday quoted by the state-run Press TV broadcaster, the Iranian foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, was quoted as saying Tehran would respond in a measured way and "send an analytical letter with logical and reasonable responses" to the meeting in Vienna. When the report was released last week, France, Britain and Germany indicated that they would join the United States in seeking new ways to pressure Iran but Russia registered opposition new sanctions and China said it was noncommittal. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran assailed the report, saying it had been orchestrated by Iran's enemies, principally the United States, which he said had dictated the report's findings. ''Why do you exploit the I.A.E.A. dignity in favor of the U.S. administration?'' Mr. Ahmadinejad asked rhetorically in a question directed at Yukiya Amano, the director general of the agency, who oversaw the production and content of the report. The dispute over Iran's nuclear program has been sharpened in recent weeks by speculation that Israel may be contemplating a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Officials and experts said Israel is hoping that the latest I.A.E.A. report will force the introduction of painful sanctions that would force Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment program Israel's role in the sanctions debate is limited. At the same time, Israel seems to be playing a larger role in convincing Tehran and the West that if no drastic change occurs in the next few months, Israel might be pushed toward military action. Indeed, when a mysterious explosion killed a founder of Iran's missile program and 16 other members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps last weekend in a blast so big it was heard 25 miles away in Tehran, many Iranians in the capital initially said they feared that an Israeli military strike was under way. The commander, Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, was a central figure in efforts to build long-range missiles who was "constantly preparing himself for the probable upcoming conflict with America," a fellow senior Revolutionary Guards commander, Gen. Hossein Alaie, said in a eulogy published on an Iranian news site.