The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors passed a resolution Sept. 13 calling on Iran to “immediately conclude and implement” an agreement with the agency to resolve the “outstanding issues related to possible military dimensions” of the country’s nuclear activities.
The resolution passed three days after IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said in his remarks at the beginning of the board’s week-long meeting in Vienna that, “despite intensified dialogue” with Iran, there have been “no concrete results” in negotiating a structure for establishing the topics and arrangements to clarify alleged prior weapons-related activities. The IAEA laid out its suspicions regarding those activities in an annex to a November report to the board. (See ACT, December 2011.) Iran says its nuclear program is entirely for peaceful purposes.
In response to the adoption of the board resolution, Ali Larijani, the speaker of the Iranian Parliament, said Sept. 16 that the agency’s actions raise questions about the “benefit of the [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] and membership” in the IAEA.
The resolution, supported by 31 of the 35 countries on the board, stressed that Iran was not providing the IAEA with the “necessary cooperation” to ensure that Tehran’s nuclear activities are peaceful. The six countries currently negotiating with Iran on its nuclear program—China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—sponsored the resolution. Cuba was the only country to vote against it, while Ecuador, Egypt, and Tunisia abstained.
The resolution “expresses continued support” for a “constructive diplomatic process” to allay international concerns over Iran’s nuclear activities and “encourages the intensification of this dialogue.” Currently, no new high-level negotiations are scheduled between Iran and the six countries, although top nuclear negotiators from each side have remained in contact since the talks stalled in June (see "Negotiators Mull Future of Iran Talks").
Discussions between Iran and the IAEA on a framework agreement to resolve the agency’s concerns about alleged military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program have been ongoing throughout the year.
On Feb. 20, the IAEA laid out a “structured approach” for dealing with the unresolved concerns from the November report. Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, responded with an edited version of the work plan Feb. 29, reflecting Tehran’s preferences for a framework to clarify the unresolved issues. Despite multiple meetings since the February exchange of proposals, Iran and the IAEA have not yet reached an agreement on how to move forward. (See ACT, June 2012.)
The most recent talks between the two sides took place Sept. 17, during the week of the IAEA’s yearly General Conference. In a press release, Amano said he conveyed to Fereydoun Abbasi, Iran’s vice president and head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, that the structure for negotiations must be “agreed and implemented as soon as possible.”
Addressing the conference on the same day, Abbasi said the IAEA needs to “act more cautiously” to “respect the rights and security” of its members. He said that “mutual trust” is necessary to “properly remove ambiguities.”
In a Sept. 10 interview with Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency, Soltanieh laid out more-specific conditions that Iran wanted the IAEA to meet in the structured approach. He said that Iran would not agree to the framework until the IAEA submitted to Tehran the “alleged documents” containing evidence of Iranian military-related activities. He also said that the agency must agree to several “main considerations” regarding Iran’s national security concerns, but did not specify what the considerations were.
In an Aug. 30 report to the board members, Amano said Iran was continuing to develop its nuclear program and still was in noncompliance with UN Security Council resolutions calling for Iran to halt certain nuclear activities. The report said Iran had installed more centrifuges at Fordow, its underground uranium-enrichment facility, although these centrifuges were yet not operating.
The agency also reported that although Tehran has continued to produce uranium enriched to 20 percent, its stockpile of that material remained nearly unchanged since the May IAEA report because it had converted some of the stockpile into fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes. Fabricating the 20 percent-enriched uranium into fuel for the reactor adds to the time and effort that would be required to make the material suitable for use in a nuclear weapon.
Abbasi told the IAEA conference that the increase in the number of centrifuges and the production of 20 percent-enriched uranium are “required measures” to fulfill Iran’s needs and “deal with possible damages,” apparently referring to the possibility of sabotage or military attack.
The production and stockpiling of 20 percent-enriched uranium is the primary concern of the six countries negotiating with Iran, who are calling on Tehran to halt 20 percent enrichment, shut down the facilities enriching uranium to that level, and send the stockpile out of the country. (See ACT, July/August 2012.)
The agency also said that it had obtained further evidence that “corroborates the analysis” of alleged activities related to nuclear weapons development that it outlined in the annex to November’s report, but did not describe in detail the new information it had received.
In his statement to the IAEA board, Robert Wood, the U.S. envoy to the agency, characterized the report’s findings as “vivid.” He said Iran “utterly refuses to act like a responsible member” of the IAEA and comply with its obligations.
Shortly before the IAEA meetings, Iran assumed presidency of the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement and, during the group’s Aug. 30-31 summit in Tehran, reiterated its claims that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful. In an Aug. 30 speech to the meeting, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said his country supported “nuclear energy for all and nuclear weapons for none.”
On the same day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon chastised Iran in his remarks for failing to cooperate fully with the IAEA. He urged Iran to take “necessary” actions to “build international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature” of its nuclear program by complying with UN Security Council resolutions and working with the IAEA.
Ban also spoke in favor of a diplomatic solution and advised all countries to “stop provocative and inflammatory threats.”