UN atomic agency rebukes Iran over activity and transparency


THE 35-NATION board of the UN nuclear agency has rebuked Iran for defying demands to curb sensitive atomic activity and failing to clarify mounting concerns about its suspected nuclear bomb research.

Two days after Israel ramped up threats to attack Iran, the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency overwhelmingly approved a resolution yesterday expressing “serious concern” about Tehran’s nuclear advances but also making clear its desire for a peaceful resolution of the row.

Only Cuba voted against the move. Three countries, including Egypt, abstained, diplomats said.

Just before the vote, a US envoy accused Iran of “systematically demolishing” a facility at the Parchin military site that IAEA inspectors wanted to visit as part of their investigation into suspected weapons research.

“Iran has been taking measures that appear consistent with an effort to remove evidence of its past activities at Parchin,” senior US diplomat Robert Wood told the IAEA’s 35-nation governing board. He said it was “troubling that Iran is blatantly hampering the ability to carry out its mandate by systematically demolishing the facility that has been identified by the IAEA as meriting inspection at the Parchin site”.

The IAEA suspects Iran conducted explosives tests in a steel chamber at Parchin, possibly a decade ago, and has asked Iran to grant it access to the facility. Iran says Parchin is a conventional military site and has dismissed allegations about it as “ridiculous”.

Citing satellite imagery, western diplomats have for several months said they suspect Iran is cleaning the site of any evidence of illicit nuclear activity, by tearing down buildings and removing soil.

Mr Wood called on Iran to grant the UN immediate access to Parchin. “If Iran has nothing to hide there, why did it begin altering the site as soon as the IAEA asked to visit?” he asked.

Six world powers tabled a resolution text on Wednesday, aiming to raise pressure on Iran, a day after Israel ramped up threats to attack its arch-foe. The resolution censures Iran for defying international demands to suspend uranium enrichment and failing to clarify concerns over nuclear arms.

In Israel, meanwhile, prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s deputy for intelligence and atomic affairs broke with the call for Iran to be confronted with a “red line” beyond which its disputed nuclear programme would face military attack. Deputy prime minister Dan Meridor appeared to side with the US in balking at Mr Netanyahu’s demand.

Mr Meridor’s remarks underscored debate about exacerbating the rift with Washington with a war that polls show most Israelis, including several senior security figures, would oppose. – (Reuters)