Watchdog urges Iran to reverse decision on uranium conversion

The United Nations agency entrusted with curbing the spread of nuclear weapons today called on Iran to reverse its decision to resume uranium conversion activities, noting that outstanding issues relating to the country’s nuclear programme have yet to be resolved.

Talking to reporters after a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors at its Vienna headquarters, Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said there was still a window of opportunity for negotiations to continue. In a statement issued by his spokesman in New York, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the IAEA Board has spoken with one voice and he expected its resolution to be implemented.

Voicing “serious concern,” the Board adopted a resolution urging Iran to re-establish full suspension of all enrichment related activities and to permit the Director General to re-instate the seals that have been removed at the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) in Isfahan.

Iran voluntarily suspended these activities last year while negotiating with European Union (EU) nations France, Germany and Britain (the so-called EU-3) on its programme, which it insists is for peaceful energy production but which some countries, including the United States, say is part of an effort to produce nuclear weapons.

Enriched uranium can be used for peaceful purposes, such as generating energy or for making nuclear weapons, and the EU-3 have said a resumption of activities in Isfahan would mean the end of the negotiations.

The seals and surveillance at the UCF are part of IAEA safeguards to ensure that nuclear materials are not diverted to weapons production in conformity with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which Iran has signed.

With the installation of agency cameras earlier this week, Iran’s resumption would not breach the treaty, but the Board today reaffirmed its earlier assertion that Iran’s suspension is “a further voluntary, non-legally binding confidence-building measure…essential to addressing outstanding issues.”

Convening at its Vienna headquarters at the request of the EU-3, the Board asked Mr. ElBaradei to continue monitoring the situation closely, inform it of any further developments and provide a comprehensive report on the implementation of Iran’s NPT Safeguards Agreement and the new resolution by 3 September.

The Board has the power to refer the matter to the UN Security Council, which in turn could impose political and economic sanctions.

The resolution noted that while Mr. ElBaradei has concluded that all declared nuclear material has been accounted for and has not been diverted to prohibited activities, the Agency is not yet in a position to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran.

From United Nations

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