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Nuclear Diplomacy????

No decision on new Iran sanctions

NEW YORK (AFP) – Six major powers considered new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear defiance here Saturday but reached no decision, a senior European Union official said.

The closed-door meeting hosted by the European Union at its mission in New York brought together senior officials from Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. China, signaling its reluctance to back tougher sanctions pushed by the West, sent a lower-level diplomat.

“Consideration of appropriate further measures has begun,” Robert Cooper, a top EU diplomat, said after the meeting, giving no details of the measures discussed.

He spoke as host and chair of the closed-door working luncheon, which lasted just over two hours.

Cooper said the six expressed concern over Iran’s building of a new secret enrichment plant “with no credible civilian purpose,” as well as its “insufficient cooperation” with the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The six were also concerned about Tehran’s rejection of a deal under which most of Iran’s low enriched uranium (LEU) stockpile would be shipped abroad to be further enriched into reactor fuel.

Tehran has ignored a US-set December 31 deadline to accept the offer, drawn up by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, and countered with its own proposal of a simultaneous and staged swap of LEU with reactor fuel.

Iran insists it is ready to send its LEU abroad only if there is a simultaneous exchange of fuel inside the country.

“The group remains united, remains committed to the two-track approach” of sanctions while pursuing negotiations, the EU official said.

“That implies that we will continue to seek a negotiation solution — but consideration of appropriate further measures (sanctions) has also begun,” he pointedly noted.

Earlier, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov emerged from the meeting, saying it was “inconclusive in the sense that we did not make any decisions right away.”

“We have started the next chapter of this saga, the next part of the process. As I said Russia has always been fully committed to the dual track approach,” he said.

“We have talked today about the second track, but it does not mean that we should abandon the first one, the engagement policy.”

US Under Secretary of State William Burns only aid that the six had a “useful discussion.”

His French counterpart Jacques Audibert stressed that “it was not a meeting to make decisions.”

Diplomatic sources said the EU-hosted meeting was preceded by a two-hour gathering of the four Western members of the group.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday that the six would explore “the kind and degree of sanctions that we should be pursuing” as Iran doggedly refused to comply with UN demands to halt uranium enrichment.

Measures said to be under consideration include tougher sanctions targeting Iran’s insurance, financial and arms sectors.

The goal is to increase the pressure so Iran will accept a UN-brokered deal aimed at allaying suspicions about the nature of its nuclear program.

Washington and its Western allies fear that Iran is secretly developing fissile material for nuclear weapons under the cover of its uranium enrichment program.

But Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and solely geared toward generating electricity for its civilian population.

Washington along with Britain, France and Germany have for months sought to convince Russia and China that the time has come to get tougher with the Islamic republic, which has already ignored three sets of Security Council sanctions.

Diplomats noted that Moscow, having seen its mediation efforts rebuffed by Tehran, has signaled it is prepared to turn up the heat on the Iranians.

But China, which has close economic and energy ties with Iran, has said new sanctions would be premature and that more time should be given for diplomacy to work.

Also at the meeting were Kang Yong, a counselor at China’s UN mission, Geoffrey Adams of Britain and Emily Haber of Germany.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/afp/100116/usa/iran_un_nuclear_diplomacy

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All that’s left to do is squeeze…..

Secret document exposes Iran’s nuclear trigger

Confidential intelligence documents obtained by The Times show that Iran is working on testing a key final component of a nuclear bomb.

The notes, from Iran’s most sensitive military nuclear project, describe a four-year plan to test a neutron initiator, the component of a nuclear bomb that triggers an explosion. Foreign intelligence agencies date them to early 2007, four years after Iran was thought to have suspended its weapons programme.

An Asian intelligence source last week confirmed to The Times that his country also believed that weapons work was being carried out as recently as 2007 — specifically, work on a neutron initiator.

The technical document describes the use of a neutron source, uranium deuteride, which independent experts confirm has no possible civilian or military use other than in a nuclear weapon. Uranium deuteride is the material used in Pakistan’s bomb, from where Iran obtained its blueprint.

“Although Iran might claim that this work is for civil purposes, there is no civil application,” said David Albright, a physicist and president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, which has analysed hundreds of pages of documents related to the Iranian programme. “This is a very strong indicator of weapons work.”

The documents have been seen by intelligence agencies from several Western countries, including Britain. A senior source at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that they had been passed to the UN’s nuclear watchdog.

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said yesterday: “We do not comment on intelligence, but our concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme are clear. Obviously this document, if authentic, raises serious questions about Iran’s intentions.”

Responding to The Times’ findings, an Israeli government spokesperson said: “Israel is increasingly concerned about the state of the Iranian nuclear programme and the real intentions that may lie behind it.”

The revelation coincides with growing international concern about Iran’s nuclear programme. Tehran insists that it wants to build a civilian nuclear industry to generate power, but critics suspect that the regime is intent on diverting the technology to build an atomic bomb.

In September, Iran was forced to admit that it was constructing a secret uranium enrichment facility near the city of Qom. President Ahmadinejad then claimed that he wanted to build ten such sites. Over the weekend Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian Foreign Minister, said that Iran needed up to 15 nuclear power plants to meet its energy needs, despite the country’s huge oil and gas reserves.

Publication of the nuclear documents will increase pressure for tougher UN sanctions against Iran, which are due to be discussed this week. But the latest leaks in a long series of allegations against Iran will also be seized on by hawks in Israel and the US, who support a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities before the country can build its first warhead.

Mark Fitzpatrick, senior fellow for non-proliferation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said: “The most shattering conclusion is that, if this was an effort that began in 2007, it could be a casus belli. If Iran is working on weapons, it means there is no diplomatic solution.”

The Times had the documents, which were originally written in Farsi, translated into English and had the translation separately verified by two Farsi speakers. While much of the language is technical, it is clear that the Iranians are intent on concealing their nuclear military work behind legitimate civilian research.

The fallout could be explosive, especially in Washington, where it is likely to invite questions about President Obama’s groundbreaking outreach to Iran. The papers provide the first evidence which suggests that Iran has pursued weapons studies after 2003 and may actively be doing so today — if the four-year plan continued as envisaged.

A 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate concluded that weapons work was suspended in 2003 and officials said with “moderate confidence” that it had not resumed by mid-2007. Britain, Germany and France, however, believe that weapons work had already resumed by then.

Western intelligence sources say that by 2003 Iran had already assembled the technical know-how it needed to build a bomb, but had yet to complete the necessary testing to be sure such a device would work. Iran also lacked sufficient fissile material to fuel a bomb and still does — although it is technically capable of producing weapons-grade uranium should its leaders take the political decision to do so.

The documents detail a plan for tests to determine whether the device works — without detonating an explosion leaving traces of uranium detectable by the outside world. If such traces were found, they would be taken as irreversible evidence of Iran’s intention to become a nuclear-armed power.

Experts say that, if the 2007 date is correct, the documents are the strongest indicator yet of a continuing nuclear weapons programme in Iran. Iran has long denied a military dimension to its nuclear programme, claiming its nuclear activities are solely focused on the production of energy for civilian use.

Mr Fitzpatrick said: “Is this the smoking gun? That’s the question people should be asking. It looks like the smoking gun. This is smoking uranium.”

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article6955351.ece


Is the West scared of Iran??

IAEA votes to censure Iran over nuclear cover-up

By Mark Heinrich

VIENNA (Reuters) – The U.N. nuclear watchdog voted Friday to rebuke Iran for building a uranium enrichment plant in secret but Tehran rejected the move as “intimidation” which would poison its negotiations with world powers.

The resolution was the first by the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) against Iran in almost four years, and a sign of spreading alarm over Tehran’s failure to dispel fears it has clandestine plans to build nuclear bombs.

It passed by a 25-3 margin with six abstentions, smoothed by rare backing from Russia and China, which have blocked global attempts to isolate Iran, a trade partner for both, in the past.

But it was far from clear whether the West could now coax Moscow and Beijing to join in biting sanctions against Iran, something they have long prevented at the U.N. Security Council.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Iran should “react with full seriousness to the signal contained in the resolution … and to ensure full cooperation with the agency.”

Moscow and Beijing’s support is seen as vital to the success of external pressure on Iran to rein in its nuclear activity and open it up to unfettered IAEA inspections and investigations.

The vote reflected exasperation with Iran’s retreat from an IAEA-brokered draft deal to provide it with fuel for a medical nuclear reactor if it agreed to part with its enriched uranium, which could be turned into bomb material if further refined.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said major powers would pursue harsher sanctions against Iran if it ignored the vote.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband “should send a very clear warning to Iran that it is not going to be able to divide the international community,” Miliband told Reuters in an interview at a Commonwealth summit in Trinidad and Tobago.

WHITE HOUSE SAYS TIME RUNNING OUT

The resolution urged Iran to clarify the original purpose of the Fordow enrichment site, hidden inside a mountain bunker, stop construction and confirm there are no more hidden sites.

Iran said those demands were beyond its legal obligations.

The United States said the IAEA vote showed an urgent need for Iran to address the growing “deficit of confidence” over its nuclear intentions. Time is running out, the White House said, and Iran would be responsible for the consequences.

The measure won blanket Western backing. Cuba, Malaysia and Venezuela, prominent in a developing nation bloc that includes Iran, voted “no,” while Afghanistan, Brazil, Egypt, Pakistan, South Africa and Turkey abstained. Azerbaijan missed the ballot.

Diplomats said the large number of abstentions indicated important developing states were souring on Iran over its nuclear defiance, particularly its hold-up of the fuel deal.

But, they said, the IAEA resolution could lead Iranian hardliners to seize on it as excuse to restrict inspections further and re-freeze talks, killing off the reactor fuel plan.

The Islamic Republic has counted on Non-Aligned Movement solidarity to help prevent a united front against it.

Israel sees Iran’s nuclear program as an existential threat given Iranian comments calling for the destruction of the Jewish state and has not ruled out military strikes against the sites. It said the IAEA resolution was of “great importance.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry called for the international community to ensure the decision bore a “practical significance by setting a timetable to require the imposition of stiff sanctions against Iran in response to any violations.”

Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons, saying its atomic energy program is purely for peaceful purposes. But its record of clandestine nuclear work and curbs on IAEA inspections have stoked suspicions and a seven-year standoff with world powers.

Iranian Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh called the resolution a “hasty and undue” step devoid of legal basis.

IRAN SAYS WILL IGNORE RESOLUTION

“The great nation of Iran will never bow to pressure and intimidation vis-a-vis its inalienable right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy,” he said.

“We will not implement any word of it because this is a politically motivated gesture against the Iranian nation.”

He said Iran would continue to allow basic inspections at its nuclear sites but could stop making “voluntary gestures” of extra cooperation such as when it allowed widened surveillance at its rapidly expanding main enrichment complex at Natanz.

Soltanieh said the resolution would also ruin the atmosphere for further talks with the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China launched on October 1 in Geneva, where the reactor fuel plan was agreed in principle.

“Such gestures … are certainly destructive. They spoil the existing cooperative environment. But neither sanctions nor the threat of military attacks can interrupt our peaceful nuclear activities even for a second,” he said.

Iran admitted Fordow’s existence in September, at least two years into its construction, shocking IAEA inspectors. Western diplomats said Iran was forced to come clean after learning the site had been detected by their spy services.

Iran had assured the IAEA last year it was not hiding any nuclear-related activities despite rules that it be transparent.

Fordow’s emergence fanned suspicions there are more secret sites intended to produce atom bombs, since experts said the plant’s capacity was too small to feed a civilian nuclear power plant, but big enough to make weapons material.

Iran’s main, larger enrichment plant, at Natanz, was exposed by Iranian opposition exiles in 2002.

Iran has told the IAEA it developed the Fordow site in secret as a backup for other, known facilities, in case they were bombed by Israel.

The last IAEA board resolution against Iran was in February 2006, when governors referred Tehran’s dossier to the U.N. Security Council over its refusal to shelve enrichment.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/reuters/091127/world/international_us_nuclear_iaea_vote