The 35-member IAEA Board of Governors are meeting in Vienna this week and the agenda in all likelihood will be dominated by Iran again. Mohammad ElBaradei, the Agency’s Director General, is asking the Board, despite American objections, to give the IAEA time to implement the work plan the Agency has negotiated with Iran. ElBaradei’s hope is for the Security Council to take a "timeout'' from sanctions and for Iran to pause its uranium enrichment to avert a crisis over the country's nuclear program.
But Iran has already stated that it will not accept a suspension under any conditions and will halt its newly agreed upon cooperative work plan with the Agency if new sanctions are pursued at the Security Council. Hence, the Board, but more significantly the P5+1 (Permanent Security Council members plus Germany) which have been pursuing Security Council sanctions in order to pressure Iran to halt its enrichment program, is faced with the difficult choice of deciding whether to give the IAEA more room to maneuver regarding the inspection of Iran’s nuclear program. This means a suspension of the attempt to tighten the sanctions noose without a concomitant and publicly announced suspension of uranium enrichment by Tehran. There have been suggestions that Iran has effectively and perhaps intentionally slowed its program (a suggestion that was immediately denied by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but not Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani). But I am pretty sure that the chances of an official suspension is almost nil.
I am pasting below the Iran relevant parts of the Director General’s statement to the Board, acknowledging the Agency's ability "to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material," resolution of a number of outstanding issues along with the Iran’s continued defiance of Security Council demand to suspend enrichment and the Agency’s inability to verify certain important aspects relevant to the scope and nature of Iran’s nuclear program. It is in the hope of verifying these aspects that the work plan was negotiated with Iran.
Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran
The report before you provides an update on the implementation of Agency safeguards in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The report makes four main points.
First, the Agency has been able to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran. Iran has continued to provide the access and reporting needed to enable Agency verification in this regard.
Second, Iran has provided the Agency with additional information and access needed to resolve a number of long outstanding issues. In particular, Agency questions regarding past plutonium experiments in Iran have been satisfactorily answered, and this issue has been resolved. Questions about the presence and origin of high enriched uranium particles at the Karaj Waste Storage Facility have also been resolved.
Third, contrary to the decisions of the Security Council, calling on Iran to take certain confidence building measures, Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities, and is continuing with the construction and operation of the Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz. Iran is also continuing with its construction of the heavy water reactor at Arak. This is regrettable.
Fourth, despite repeated requests by the Board and the Security Council to Iran, the Agency has so far been unable to verify certain important aspects relevant to the scope and nature of Iran´s nuclear programme. It was this situation that triggered a crisis of confidence about the nature of Iran´s nuclear programme, which led to a series of actions by the UN Security Council. However, during a meeting I had with the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, Dr. Larijani, it was agreed that Iran would work with the Agency to develop a work plan for resolving all outstanding verification issues. A copy of the resulting work plan between Iran and the Secretariat is attached to my report.
This is the first time that Iran has agreed on a plan to address all outstanding issues, with a defined timeline, and is therefore an important step in the right direction. Naturally, the key to gauging Iran´s commitment will be its willingness to implement this work plan fully and in a timely manner. This would require active cooperation by Iran and its undertaking of all the transparency measures needed to reconstruct the history of its nuclear programme - measures that are provided for in the additional protocol and beyond, and which include access to locations, documents and individuals, as well as answers to all questions the Agency may need to ask in order to reach a technical conclusion on a particular issue. Resolving all outstanding verification issues in the next two to three months, after a long deadlock, would go a long way towards building the confidence of the international community in the peaceful nature of Iran´s past nuclear programme.
But equally important, Iran obviously needs to continue to build confidence in the scope and nature of its current nuclear programme, including renewed access by the Agency to information relevant to ongoing advanced centrifuge research. To that end, and given the special history of Iran´s nuclear programme, it would be indispensable for Iran to ratify and bring into force its additional protocol, as called for by the Security Council and the Board. This would enable the Agency to provide assurances not only regarding declared nuclear material but, equally important, regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.
Finally, I continue to hope that conditions will be created soon to make it possible for the resumption of negotiations between Iran and all relevant parties. I still believe it is only through negotiations that a durable solution could be achieved - a solution that provides the international community with the required level of assurance and enables Iran to exercise its rights under the NPT. To this end I repeat that a "double time-out" of all enrichment related activities and of sanctions could provide a breathing space for negotiations to be resumed. The earlier we move from confrontation and distrust to dialogue and confidence building, the better for Iran and for the international community.