Fereydoon Abbasi Davani, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, alleged Monday that UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), might have been infiltrated by those attempting to sabotage his country's peaceful civilian nuclear program.
"Terrorists and saboteurs might have intruded the agency and might be making decisions covertly," Davani said in his address to the annual gathering of the IAEA member-states in the Austrian capital city of Vienna on Monday.
Pointing out that power lines to the Fordo underground uranium enrichment facility near the city of Qom were blown up on August 17, a day before IAEA inspectors sought access to the site, he asked: "Does this visit have any connection to that detonation? Who other than the IAEA inspectors can have access to the complex in such a short time?"
Iran swears that the Fordo facility is being used for enriching uranium to a maximum of 20 percent purity for civilian purposes. Tehran has also rejected claims made by U.N. inspectors that they had found traces of of uranium enriched to 27 percent at the site in May, insisting that those readings could be accidental. Uranium enriched to a purity of 27 percent or more could be used for making nuclear weapons.
Although Iran insists its nuclear work is intended for peaceful civilian purposes, the West suspects the claim to be a cover-up for the country's nuclear weapon ambitions. Tehran argues that it has the right to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes as it is a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the IAEA.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran ... has always opposed and will always denounce the manufacture and use of weapons of mass destruction," Davani said addressing the IAEA gathering on Monday.
Nevertheless, he stressed that any attempts to sabotage Iran's nuclear program would continue to fail as they have in the past. He said Iranian experts have also "devised certain ways through which nuclear facilities remain intact under missile attacks and raids," apparently prompted by Israel's efforts to get western backing for military action aimed at ending Iran's nuclear program.
Israel wants the West to consider military options for ending Iran's controversial nuclear program, which most nations suspect is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. But Washington continues to oppose any unilateral Israeli military action against Iran over the nuclear issue, and wants to allow more time for diplomacy and sanctions to take effect.
Iran is currently reeling under sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment. The US and its allies have imposed separate sanctions on Iran, targeting its oil and banking sectors, after an IAEA report released in November cautioned that Tehran may be planning to develop nuclear weapons.
The Iranian nuclear chief on Monday accused the IAEA of mismanagement, and alleged that the decision-making process at the UN agency was being influenced by "certain states" opposed to his country's nuclear program, which he insisted has peaceful intentions. He also described the US-led sanctions as "the ugly face of colonization and modern slavery."
Davani's remarks came just days after IAEA's 35-nation governing board adopted a resolution expressing "serious concern" over Iran's continued defiance of the international community's demands for halting its disputed nuclear program.
Ahead of Davani's address, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano told the annual gathering of the UN agency's 155 member states in Vienna on Monday that the nuclear watchdog remains "firmly committed to intensifying dialogue" with Tehran to resolve the issue.
"We will continue negotiations with Iran on a structured approach to resolve all outstanding issues. I hope we can reach agreement without further delay, to be followed by immediate implementation," Amano said.
Notably, previous negotiations between Iranian and IAEA officials have ended in failure. The P5+1 group of nations, comprising the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, have already held three rounds of unsuccessful negotiations with Iran this year. The first round of negotiations were held in Istanbul in April, followed by talks in Baghdad in May and in Moscow in June.
The P5+1 group wants Iran to halt enriching uranium to 20 percent level, shut down the Fordo facility, ship out stockpiled 20 percent enriched nuclear materials and allow UN. nuclear inspectors to verify the so-claimed peaceful intentions of Iran's disputed nuclear activity. In return, they are offering to supply Iran with medical isotopes and provide co-operation on nuclear safety.
The negotiations, mediated by the European Union, are still continuing. It is widely believed that Iran's continued participation in the talks is for convincing the P5+1 nations to lift their individual as well as UN sanctions currently imposed on Tehran. Experts say the Western sanctions are beginning to take an adverse effect on Iran's oil-based economy.
Iran's FARS news agency reported Sunday that the Islamic Republic's chief nuclear negotiator Said Jalili and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton have agreed to resume talks in Istanbul, Turkey, on Tuesday.
by RTT Staff Writer
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