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UN - Iranian nuclear programme is ‘special case,’ says head of UN agency

The head of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said today that the potential military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear programme make the country a “special case” for the agency as he called on Tehran to take action to ensure it fully implements its international obligations.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano told the body’s Board of Governors in Vienna that “Iran’s Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement requires the agency to seek to verify both the non-diversion of nuclear material from declared activities and the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities.”

Iran’s nuclear programme – which its officials have stated is for peaceful purposes, but some other countries contend is driven by military ambitions – has been a matter of international concern since the discovery in 2003 that the country had concealed its nuclear activities for 18 years in breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Mr. Amano said today that the “necessary cooperation” on the part of Iran would include implementing resolutions of both the IAEA Board of Governors and the Security Council, as well as putting the Additional Protocol, a set of safeguards aimed at boosting the agency’s ability to ensure that a State does not have undeclared nuclear material, into place.

Under an agreement brokered last month by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Iran would ship its low-enriched uranium out of the country in exchange for high-enriched uranium for use at a civilian nuclear research site in its capital, Tehran.

This follows a draft text on providing fuel for the Tehran site – in which Iranian low-enriched uranium would be shipped for further enrichment to Russia and then to France to be fabricated into fuel – reached late last year, which was approved by France, Russia and the United States, but ultimately not accepted by Iran.

Low refined uranium can be used for civilian energy reactors but when purified to a much higher degree it can also be used in making nuclear weapons.

Late last month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Iran to end its continued enrichment of uranium to 20 per cent purity so as to build mutual trust over its nuclear programme.

Even after agreeing to the Brazil-Turkey pact, Iran has vowed to continue this enrichment process, Mr. Ban noted.

“I have been repeatedly urging to the Iranian authorities that they have to clear their nuclear programme, that it is exclusively for peaceful purposes, and it is not meant for military purposes, and they should fully comply with the relevant Security Council resolutions,” he stressed.

In his address to the Board of Governors today, Mr. Amano also pointed out that Syria has not cooperated with the IAEA since June 2008 in connection with a destroyed building at Dair Alzour, which has been alleged by some to be the site of a nuclear reactor, as well as other locations.

“As a consequence, the agency has not been able to make progress towards resolving the outstanding issues related to those sites,” he stressed.

The Director General also noted that the IAEA’s General Conference adopted a resolution last year expressing concern over Israel’s nuclear capabilities, calling on the country to accede to the NPT. He said that he is awaiting input from Member States on meeting the objectives of the resolution.

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