Tag Archives: tehran

United Nations, Iran and the Atomic Bomb

Top U.N. inspectors in Iran talks on atom bomb accusations

By Parisa Hafezi | Reuters

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Senior U.N. inspectors arrived in Iran on Monday to push for transparency about its disputed nuclear program and several European states halted purchases of Iranian oil as part of Western moves to pile pressure on a defiant Tehran.

Iran denies Western accusations that it is covertly seeking the means to build nuclear weapons and has again vowed no nuclear retreat in recent weeks, but also voiced willingness to resume negotiations with world powers without preconditions.

The five-member International Atomic Energy Agency team, led by chief IAEA inspector Herman Nackaerts, planned two days of meetings in another attempt to get answers from Iran regarding intelligence suggesting its declared civilian nuclear energy program is a facade for researching ways to make atom bombs.

Nackaerts said on departure from Vienna that he wanted “concrete results” from the talks. His delegation was expected to seek, among other things, to question Iranian nuclear scientists and visit the Parchin military base believed to have been used for high-explosive tests relevant to nuclear warheads.

But Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi dampened speculation about increased IAEA access when he told the student news agency ISNA that the agency officials would not be going to any nuclear sites. “No. Their work has just begun,” Salehi said.

DIPLOMATIC IMPACT

Diplomats doubted that the talks would bring a breakthrough.

“I believe most are rather skeptical concerning the outcome because, well, Iran had a chance at the last meeting and didn’t seize it,” a senior Western official said, referring to the last trip by the senior IAEA team to Tehran at the end of January.

Referring to last week’s announcements by Iran of new nuclear advances, he said: “They send out the wrong signals that Iran is really willing to cooperate… We will wait and see what will come out of this meeting but we should be prepared that Iran might try some technical steps … to appear cooperative without really providing the necessary cooperation.”

The outcome of the discussions will have diplomatic repercussions because it could either deepen a stand-off that has stoked fears of war or provide scope to reduce tensions.

In a sign of Iranian concern about possible, last-resort air strikes by arch-enemies Israel or the United States, Tehran on Monday began a four-day military exercise in protecting its nuclear sites, according to Iranian media.

“(It) will practice coordination between the Revolutionary Guards and regular army and air defense units in establishing a defense umbrella over our vital centers, particularly nuclear facilities,” the labor news agency ILNA said.

The European Union enraged Tehran last month when it decided to slap a boycott on its oil from July 1. On Monday, the European Commission said Belgium, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands had already stopped buying Iranian oil, while Greece, Spain and Italy were cutting back on their purchases.

In retaliation for oil sanctions, Iran, the world’s fifth-largest crude exporter, has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, conduit for a third of the world’s seaborne oil, and the United States signaled it would use force to keep it open.

On Sunday, Iran’s oil ministry announced a retaliatory halt in oil sales to French and British companies, although that step will be largely symbolic as those firms had already greatly reduced purchases of Iranian crude.

The spiking tension over Iran’s nuclear activity, which Iranian officials say is solely for electricity generation, has put upward pressure on oil prices.

Deputy Oil Minister Ahmad Qalebani suggested the Western crackdown would backfire, saying that in targeting Iranian oil the West had achieved only a surge in crude prices from $103 a barrel to $120, “and it will reach $150”.

In remarks carried by the official news agency IRNA on Monday, Qalebani also said that if other EU states continued “their hostile behavior towards Iran, we will cut our oil exports to those countries … Fortunately demand for Iran’s crude has not decreased. Instead it has increased.”

But the EU could cope with an abrupt halt by Iran of its oil exports as buyers of Iranian oil are already adjusting to the EU’s forthcoming ban on Iranian shipments, an International Energy Agency (IEA) official said on Monday.

China, in rare criticism of one of its major oil suppliers, rebuked Iran over the move to bar sales to Britain and France.

“We have consistently upheld dialogue and negotiation as the way to resolve disputes between countries, and do not approve of exerting pressure or using confrontation to resolve issues,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a news briefing when asked about the matter.

China buys around 20 percent of total Iranian oil exports.

Debt-ridden Greece is most exposed to Iranian crude disruption among EU countries. [ID:nL5E8DJ088]

MILITARY ACTION?

Iran says its nuclear program is wholly peaceful but its refusal to curb uranium enrichment, which can have both civilian and military ends, while shifting a key part of it to a remote mountain bunker protected from air strikes and continuing to restrict IAEA access, has raised suspicions. [ID:nL5E8D33E6]

The United States and Israel have not ruled out using force against Iran if diplomacy and sanctions fail to rein it in, and there has been intense public discussion in Israel about whether it should attack Iran to stop it “weaponizing” enrichment.

The top U.S. military officer said on Sunday that a military strike would be premature as it remained unclear whether Tehran would put its nuclear capabilities to developing a bomb, saying he believed the Tehran government was a “rational actor”. [ID:nL2E8DJ0IG]

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong said using force would be the wrong answer. “Attacking Iran militarily would only worsen the confrontation and lead to further upheaval in the region,” he said.

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, who also holds the intelligence portfolio, said the sanctions regime had been toughened to the point of causing “hysteria” in Iran.

“All this shows the pressure which this regime is under, but they have not yet decided to shut down their nuclear effort, so the struggle is on,” Meridor told reporters in Jerusalem. “I think there is a chance of success (for sanctions) if it they are done with determination, persistence and leadership.”

The West has expressed some optimism at the prospect of new talks with Tehran, particularly after it sent a letter to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton last week promising to bring “new initiatives” to the table with six world powers without stating preconditions. [ID:nL2E8DH6UT]

“In these negotiations, we are looking for a way out of Iran’s current nuclear issue so that both sides win,” Iranian TV quoted Foreign Minister Salehi as saying on Sunday. The last round of talks collapsed in January last year.

Oil is a pillar part of Iran’s export revenues and an important lifeline for its increasingly isolated economy. Tehran has little refining capacity and must import about 40 percent of its gasoline needs for domestic consumption.

Tighter sanctions, combined with high inflation, have squeezed the ability of working-class Iranians to feed themselves and their families, and this uncertainty will cloud a parliamentary election on March 2.

“Everything’s become so expensive in the past few weeks,” said Marjan Hamidi, a shopper in Tehran. “But my husband’s income stays the same. How am I going to live like this?”

(Additional reporting by Ramin Mostafavi in Tehran, Susan Cornwell in Washington, Fredrik Dahl in Vienna and Crispian Balmer in Jerusalem; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/iran-halts-oil-sales-uk-france-eve-talks-030432361.html


Uprising in Iran??

Iran police arrest dozens of protesters: opposition

Reuters

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Dozens of Iranian opposition supporters were arrested on Monday while taking part in a banned rally in Tehran to support popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, an Iranian opposition website said.

“Witnesses say in some parts of Tehran security forces arrested dozens of protesters,” opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi‘s Kaleme website reported.

Security forces fired teargas to scatter thousands of opposition supporters marching toward a Tehran square, a witness said. There were also clashes between police and demonstrators, resulting in dozens of arrests, in Isfahan in central Iran, the country’s third largest city, another witness told Reuters.

The rallies amounted to a test of strength for the reformist opposition, which had not taken to the streets since December 2009, when eight people were killed.

Large numbers of police wearing riot gear and security forces were stationed around the main squares of the capital and pairs of state militiamen roamed the streets on motorbikes.

There were minor clashes at some points across the sprawling capital city of some 12 million people, witnesses said. Mobile telephone connections were down in the area of the protests.

“There are thousands of people marching … Security forces fired tear gas to disperse them near Imam Hossein square,” one witness said earlier in the day.

“Death to the dictator,” some of the protesters chanted, though in other places, demonstrators marched in silence.

The demonstrators marched toward Azadi (Freedom) Square, a traditional rallying point for protests in central Tehran dominated by a huge white marble arch. Hundreds of marchers also gathered in Isfahan and Shiraz, witnesses said.

But security forces surrounded the Tehran houses of opposition leaders Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi preventing them and Mousavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard from joining the march, their websites said.

“Mirhossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard are still trying to leave their house and join the protests… but security forces are preventing them. Security forces have even threatened Mousavi’s guards to not allow them to leave the house by any means,” the Mousavi’s Kalame website said.

Mousavi and Karroubi took advantage of official Iranian backing for the huge street protests in Egypt and Tunisia to call their own demonstrations in solidarity, but authorities refused their request.

The opposition nevertheless renewed the call for the rally. Iranian authorities have warned the opposition to avoid creating a “security crisis” by reviving protests that erupted after the vote, the biggest unrest in Iran since the 1979 revolution.

“THE NATION’S DEMANDS”

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia an “Islamic awakening,” akin to the 1979 revolution that overthrew the U.S.-backed shah.

But the opposition see the unrest as being more similar to their own protests following the June 2009 election which they say was rigged in favor of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Revolutionary Guards, fiercely loyal to Khamenei, put down the 2009 protests. Two people were hanged and scores of opposition supporters jailed.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul, on a visit to Tehran, called on Middle Eastern governments to listen to the demands of their people, although he did not refer to Iran.

“We see that sometimes when the leaders and heads of countries do not pay attention to the nations’ demands, the people themselves take action to achieve their demands,” Gul told a news conference alongside Ahmadinejad.

Any use of heavy force to stop the marches in Iran during Gul’s visit could be an embarrassment for Turkey.

However, Ankara, officially an ally of the West, was one of the first governments to congratulate Ahmadinejad on his 2009 re-election and is seeking to triple the volume of trade with its neighbor despite U.N., U.S. and EU sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic over its disputed nuclear activity.

Iranian authorities deny doctoring the 2009 election results and accuse opposition leaders of being part of a Western plot to overthrow the Islamic system.

“They are incapable of doing a damn thing,” the hardline Kayhan newspaper quoted Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi as saying, echoing words used by the late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to refer to the United States. The opposition is “guided by Iran’s enemies abroad,” Moslehi said.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/iran-forces-streets-thwart-opposition-rally-20110214-020304-500.html

 


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