BBC & Mark Heinrich / Reuters – 2007-08-28 22:08:06
Iran to Protest over ‘US Arrests’
LONDON (August 28, 2007) — Iran says it will make a formal protest to Iraq on Wednesday over the apparent arrest and detention of seven of its nationals by US troops in Baghdad.
The men were seized from one of the city’s main hotels and led away blindfolded and in handcuffs. The Iranian embassy in Baghdad says the men were experts helping to rebuild electricity power stations in Iraq.
The US military declined to comment, saying that the action was part of an operation that had not been completed. The group was detained at the Sheraton Ishtar Hotel. Video footage showed soldiers leading the men out of the building. Other soldiers were seen carrying what appeared to be luggage and a laptop computer bag.
The arrests came shortly after a speech by US President George W Bush in which he criticised Iranian interference in Iraq.
Tension between the US and Iran is running high — with the US accusing Iran of providing arms, money and military training to Shia insurgents in Iraq.
President Bush stated that he had authorised his military commanders in Iraq to confront what he called Iran’s “murderous activities” in the country. “Iran’s actions threaten the security of nations everywhere. We will confront this danger before it is too late,” Mr Bush said.
The White House said the section of the president’s speech which dealt with Iran was not an attempt to signal any change of policy. But the BBC’s Justin Webb in Washington says that while Mr Bush is not suggesting that the US has given up on diplomacy, he seems to be keen to keep other options open and openly discussed.
The president also said the entire region would be under the shadow of a “nuclear holocaust” if Iran developed nuclear weapons. Tehran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful.
Earlier, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that US power in Iraq was on the verge of collapse and this would lead to “a huge vacuum” which Iran would be willing to fill.
In January, five Iranians — who the US say are linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and were training militants in Iraq — were captured in the northern city of Irbil. The five remain in US custody.
© BBC MMVII
Bush Attacks Iran
LONDON (August 28, 2007) — US President George W Bush has warned Iran to stop supporting the militants fighting against the US in Iraq.
In a speech to US war veterans in Reno, Nevada, Mr Bush renewed charges that Tehran has provided training and weapons for extremists in Iraq. “The Iranian regime must halt these actions,” he said.
Earlier, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned that US authority in the region was rapidly collapsing, and Iran would help fill the void.
“Soon, we will see a huge power vacuum in the region,” Mr Ahmadinejad said. “Of course, we are prepared to fill the gap, with the help of neighbours and regional friends like Saudi Arabia, and with the help of the Iraqi nation.”
In his speech to the American Legion, Mr Bush hit back, accusing Iran’s Revolutionary Guards of funding and arming insurgents in Iraq. And he said Iran’s leaders could not avoid some responsibility for attacks on coalition troops and Iraqi civilians.
“I have authorised our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran’s murderous activities,” he said.
The BBC’s Justin Webb, in Washington, says this looks like a conscious effort by the White House to elevate the tension between Washington and Tehran to a new level.
Such an effort might be designed to avoid the need for armed conflict or might equally be an effort to bring that conflict about, our correspondent says.
Shortly after Mr Bush made his address, Iranian officials reported that seven Iranians working for the country’s electricity ministry had been arrested in Baghdad by US forces.
In a wide-ranging speech, Mr Bush also tackled the issue of Iran’s nuclear ambition — which Tehran insists is solely to provide power, but the US believes may be used to develop weapons.
“Iran’s active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust,” he said.
“Iran’s actions threaten the security of nations everywhere. We will confront this danger before it is too late.”
It was Mr Bush’s second major speech on foreign policy in a week. Correspondents say he is seeking to rally support for the so-called surge strategy of sending more troops to Iraq.
• Lots of accusations, but absolutely no evidence to support them. He’s not even taking the trouble to make any evidence up this time!
— David, Newcastle
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Iran Resolves Plutonium
Issues under Atom Pact: IAEA
Mark Heinrich / Reuters
(August 27, 2007) — Iran has resolved UN questions about tests with plutonium, a key fuel for atomic bombs, and the International Atomic Energy Agency considers the matter closed, according to the text of an IAEA-Iran accord released on Monday.
It would be the first major issue relating to the scope of Iran’s disputed nuclear program closed by the UN nuclear watchdog in a four-year investigation stonewalled up to now, with other questions to be settled within the next few months.
Iran and the IAEA reached a deal on August 21 meant to clarify questions about indications of illicit attempts to make atomic bombs in Iran’s declared drive for peaceful nuclear energy — suspicions that helped lead to UN sanctions against Tehran.
The plan’s other goal is to ensure regular, effective access for IAEA inspectors to Iran’s underground uranium enrichment plant where it plans industrial production of nuclear fuel.
But Western diplomats said the plan was flawed for not committing Iran to resume observing the IAEA’s Additional Protocol, which permits wider-ranging, short-notice inspections of sites not declared to be nuclear.
Western powers embroiled in a standoff with Iran over its refusal to heed UN resolutions demanding it stop nuclear work say there is no way to rule out the risk Iran might have a covert military nuclear facility without the Protocol in place.
And the plan also declares that once Iran had clarified the issues listed, the IAEA would declare there were “no remaining questions and ambiguities” about Iran’s past activity, a gesture analysts called problematic without more sweeping inspections.
Iran has insisted that it seeks only electricity, not explosives, from enriched uranium.
The plan’s text said IAEA officials judged last week that information given by Iran this summer abut its plutonium experiments was consistent with inspectors’ findings.
“Thus this matter is resolved. This will be communicated officially by the Agency to Iran through a letter,” it said, without specifying exactly how suspicions were defused.
Iran and the IAEA also agreed to forge a legally binding accord governing inspections at the expanding, underground Natanz enrichment complex by the end of September.
Shadowy Centrifuge Research
Iran would then explain shadowy efforts to build advanced P-2 centrifuges, which can enrich uranium 2-3 times as fast as the outmoded, breakdown-prone P-1 model it now uses. Iran committed to resolving the P-2 issue by November.
Iran committed to settling questions surrounding particles of weapons-grade enriched uranium found in Tehran’s Technical University once the centrifuge matter was closed.
Other questions about Iranian activity to be closed, but without a deadline spelled out in the plan, included:
* What Iran did with a black-market document in Iran’s possession describing how to machine uranium metal into hemisphere shapes suitable for the core of a bomb.
* Western intelligence about secret, administrative links between uranium processing, high explosives tests and a missile warhead design. Iran agreed, “as a sign of goodwill and cooperation,” to examine the evidence that it previously rejected as “politically motivated and baseless allegations.”
The IAEA has touted the plan as a “milestone” for having secured Iranian agreement to a timetable for transparency.
But a Western diplomat accredited to the IAEA said a weakness of the plan was its failure to spell out steps Iran would take to provide access “to people, places and documentation” needed for closure.
“The IAEA’s (35-nation) board of governors has an obligation to ensure that, apart from resolving outstanding issues, confidence in Iran’s nuclear program is rebuilt — and that will take time, beyond December, and an Additional Protocol.”
US nuclear analyst David Albright told Reuters: “This plan looks problematic. Nothing in Iran justifies the IAEA pulling its punches without the Additional Protocol. You should never give up the right to ask further questions and follow up.”
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