Feb
21

Iran nuclear talks a failure, says IAEA

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UN nuclear inspectors say no progress was made, with access blocked to key site, while regime threatens pre-emptive strikes

The UN nuclear agency has declared its latest inspection visit to Iran a failure, with the regime blocking access to a key site suspected of hosting covert nuclear weapon research and no agreement reached on how to resolve other unanswered questions.

The statement from the International Atomic Energy Agency was issued shortly after an Iranian general warned of a pre-emptive strike against any nation that threatens Iran.

“We engaged in a constructive spirit but no agreement was reached,” the statement quoted IAEA chief Yukiya Amano as saying.

The communique said that Iran did not grant requests by the IAEA mission to visit Parchin, a military site thought to be used for explosives testing related to triggering a nuclear weapon. Amano called this decision “disappointing”. No agreement was reached on how to begin “clarification of unresolved issues in connection with Iran’s nuclear programme, particularly those relating to possible military dimensions”, the statement said.

The fact that the statement was issued early Wednesday, shortly after midnight and just after the IAEA experts left Tehran, reflected the urgency the agency attached to announcing the failed outcome. The language of the statement clearly if indirectly blamed Tehran for the lack of progress.

Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency had earlier quoted the deputy head of the Islamic republic’s armed forces, Mohammad Hejazi, as saying: “Our strategy now is that if we feel our enemies want to endanger Iran’s national interests, and want to decide to do that, we will act without waiting for their actions.

“[We will] not wait for enemies to take action against us.”

The result of the IAEA visit is the latest sign of Iranian resolve to continue resisting international pressure to curb its nuclear activities. The US and Israel have warned they might take military action as a last resort if diplomacy fails.

Iran’s defence minister, Ahmad Vahidi, was reported on the regime’s Press TV channel as saying his country intended to boost its presence in international waters.

The IAEA visit was the second to Tehran within a month, ahead of a widely anticipated report that could set the scene for either a new round of diplomacy or an escalation of tension. The Iranian student news agency, ISNA, quoted Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA in Vienna, Ali Asghar Soltaniyeh, as saying that the “negotiations will continue in the future”.

The team, under the agency’s deputy director general, Herman Nackaerts, is now returning to the IAEA headquarters in Vienna and is due to report back on Tehran’s co-operation by the end of the week. At the start of the two-day trip to Tehran, Nackaerts had said he was seeking “concrete results”.

Diplomats in Vienna have said the IAEA is seeking access to at least one sensitive military site and wants to interview Iranian scientists who took part in research the IAEA believes may have been aimed at developing a nuclear weapon.

The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, claimed on Tuesday that the IAEA team was not actually there to inspect nuclear facilities. “The titles of the members of the visiting delegation is not inspectors. This is an expert delegation. The purpose of visit is not inspection,” Mehmanparast said. “The aim is to negotiate about co-operation between Iran and the agency and to set a framework for a continuation of the talks.”

The wording of the IAEA report could have a significant influence on whether there is a new round of talks between Iran and a six-nation group of major powers on the future of the Iranian nuclear programme. The stakes behind the diplomacy are exceptionally high at a time when the Israeli government has reportedly debated whether to carry out air strikes in a bid to set back what it portrays as an Iranian project to build a nuclear arsenal – a development that would challenge Israel’s nuclear monopoly in the Middle East.

Last week Iran claimed to have built faster uranium enrichment centrifuges, and to have loaded domestically made fuel plates into a reactor in defiance of the west.

In recent years Iran’s nuclear programme has experienced a series of dramatic setbacks: Stuxnet, a computer worm believed to have been designed by opponents of the regime, caused damage to its nuclear enrichment systems, and four nuclear scientists have been assassinated in the past two years. Another scientist who was wounded in an assassination attempt was later promoted to become the country’s nuclear chief.

Tensions have escalated since a report by the IAEA in November led to an oil embargo against Iran by the US and its European allies. In response to western sanctions, which have recently begun to bite, Iran has resorted to sabre-rattling and threats of closing the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran has now warned it could cut off oil exports to six European countries in retaliation for the latest sanctions imposed on the regime. The announcement caused turmoil in the world’s crude market.

Iran asserts that the US and Israel have used fabricated evidence to make up the allegations of secret work to develop nuclear arms. The regime insists it is enriching uranium only to make nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes such as producing energy.

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