UN deplores lack of co-operation by Iran on nuclear research

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The Independent Online

The UN nuclear watchdog yesterday rebuked Iran for failing to come clean on its suspected nuclear weapons programme but stopped short of provoking an immediate diplomatic crisis.

The UN nuclear watchdog yesterday rebuked Iran for failing to come clean on its suspected nuclear weapons programme but stopped short of provoking an immediate diplomatic crisis.

After days of negotiations, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) governors' board adopted a European-drafted resolution that "deplores" Iran's lack of "full, timely and proactive" co-operation.

But the harshly-worded resolution gave Iran more time to co-operate by fulfilling specific demands, without setting a deadline for compliance, and did not report it to the Security Council for punishment.

However, further concerns were raised yesterday about Iran's nuclear intentions when the Bush administration accused Iran of destroying parts of a restricted area next to a military complex in a Tehran suburb. Satellite photos showed that several buildings had been destroyed and topsoil had been removed at Lavizan Shiyan, said the State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher.

The Iraq experience has demonstrated the limits of satellite intelligence in confirming sites of weapons of mass destruction. Iran's chief delegate to the Vienna meeting, Hossein Mousavian, denied a cover-up and said that the IAEA was free to see the site. "There is nothing there," he said.

Under an agreement brokered by Britain, France and Germany last October, Iran suspended uranium enrichment and allowed the IAEA to inspect its nuclear facilities without notice. But the resolution, adopted unanimously by the IAEA's 35-member board, said that Iran must still resolve several key unanswered questions.

Most of these focus on the traces of highly enriched uranium found at several sites in Iran, and the extent and nature of work on the advanced P-2 centrifuge, which is used to enrich uranium.

The resolution underlined the loss of confidence in Iran after its failure to volunteer information. Iran insists that its nuclear research programme is purely civilian. The Americans have let the three European countries take the lead in dealing with Iran, but the US chief delegate, Kenneth Brill, stressed that America favoured reporting Iran to the Security Council for action.

The Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, welcomed the resolution and said the IAEA process "is the right way to engage Iran".

Senior British officials said that they did not expect the negotiations with Iran to come to a head before the end of the year, although they did acknowledge there was a danger that Tehran could use the delay to pursue its suspected weapons programme clandestinely.

"We have gone into this with our eyes open," an official said. "But we want to give Iran the opportunity for a balanced way forward. We are deliberately not trying to get into a threatening relationship with the Iranians. We want a constructive, transparent dialogue."

The IAEA is expected to have the results of environmental samplings in November, which could provide evidence of Iranian deception.

The negotiations with Iran are taking place as the big powers are attempting to curb the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, but stand accused of failing to address those held by Israel. The British officials acknowledged that it was "difficult" to engage with Iran on its security concerns.

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