HOME About Blog Contact Hotel Links Donations Registration
NEWS & COMMENTARY 2008 SPEAKERS 2007 2006 2005

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

IAEA Suspends Nuke Aid to Iran

The International Atomic Energy Agency has suspended some technical aid projects in Iran to comply with new U.N. sanctions slapped on Tehran over suspicions it may be trying to build nuclear bombs, diplomats say.

Western powers want an IAEA review of aid for Iran's civilian nuclear energy programme to cut most of the 65 projects but face resistance from a developing nation bloc to which Iran belongs, raising tension within the nuclear watchdog.

Findings from the review will be presented to the 35-nation IAEA governing board next month for a probable vote at its next scheduled meeting in March. But some projects had already been provisionally shelved, Western diplomats said on Wednesday.

"Projects that are in the view of the (IAEA) secretariat definitely not compatible with U.N. Resolution 1737 have been put on hold already," said a European Union diplomat among a group briefed by the IAEA's technical aid director this week.

"It [the secretariat] has also draw up a preliminary list of projects that can be continued and is completing an assessment of those more difficult to assess, the ones with a more hybrid character, or the ones where it boils down to proper interpretation and definition," the diplomat added.

Secretariat officials declined to say how many projects were suspended or which ones, said the diplomat, who declined to be identified.

A senior source within the IAEA confirmed the development. Iranian officials were not immediately available for comment.

The Islamic Republic was hit with preliminary sanctions over its failure to prove to the IAEA that experimental efforts to enrich uranium are geared solely to generating electricity as it maintains, rather than building bombs as the West suspects.

The Dec. 23 U.N. resolution prohibits transfers of sensitive nuclear materials and know-how to Iran as well as IAEA aid — traditionally given to bolster peaceful uses of nuclear energy — if it has any possible use in producing atomic fuel.

Until last month the IAEA was running around 20 aid projects specifically for Iran and more than 40 "regional" packages collectively for Iran and neighbouring countries.

The IAEA runs around 800 or so technical projects around the world, worth altogether about $80 million, though the value is reckoned less in cash terms than in the expertise it brings to member countries.

Many entail work in radio-isotopes for medical care and agriculture, radioactive waste management, nuclear power planning and nuclear safety regulations.

The last three categories, at least, could be interpreted to be supportive of nuclear fuel production, many diplomats said.

Exactly how broadly to apply the definition of banned projects is the subject of a brewing battle between Western and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) of developing nations on the Vienna-based IAEA's board of governors.

Developing nations oppose what they regard as increasing U.S.-European efforts, spurred by doubt over Iran's intentions, to "micromanage" technical aid that has long been routine.

Another complication is dissent among western nations, diplomats on the IAEA board said.

They said the United States, Australia and France believed at least half of the aid projects should go.

"This group wants grey-area projects on the blacklist," a Western diplomat who took part in briefings told Reuters.

But Germany, now holding the EU presidency, Italy and many smaller EU states preferred smaller cuts, hoping this would help coax Iran towards a compromise and reduce the risk of driving Tehran into a corner, possibly provoking it to bar IAEA inspectors and even quit the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

"This group wants a more nuanced than black-and-white approach, believing the challenge now is how to re-engage Iran," said another European diplomat who was at briefings this week.

"There are some projects that obviously have to be frozen because they can be associated with enrichment, but the majority of projects will go through," said a senior NAM diplomat.

Those advising restraint for now point to Iran's retreat from threats to bolt from the NPT if hit with sanctions, a fresh promise to preserve basic IAEA inspections, and apparent hesitation to pursue plans for "industrial-scale" enrichment.

© Reuters 2007.

Web IntelligenceSummit.org
Webmasters: Intelligence, Homeland Security & Counter-Terrorism WebRing
Copyright © IHEC 2008. All rights reserved.       E-mail info@IntelligenceSummit.org