BBC World News – 2008-04-30 22:26:35
‘Provocative’ Clinton Angers Iran
(May 1, 2008) — Tehran has complained to the UN about remarks made last week by Hillary Clinton on the circumstances under which the US might attack Iran. The Democratic presidential hopeful said last week the US could “totally obliterate” Iran if it attacked Israel.
Tehran, which insists its nuclear programme is solely for power generation, denounced her words as “provocative and irresponsible.” It said the remarks were “a flagrant violation” of the UN Charter.
In a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Mehdi Danesh-Yazdi, Iran’s deputy ambassador to the UN, said Mrs Clinton had “unwarrantedly and under erroneous and false pretexts threatened to use force against the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
The New York senator had made the remarks in a televised interview last week.
Asked how she would respond if Iran launched a nuclear attack on Israel, she replied with a stark warning. “If I’m the president, we will attack Iran… we would be able to totally obliterate them,” she told TV network ABC.
“That’s a terrible thing to say, but those people who run Iran need to understand that, because that perhaps will deter them from doing something that would be reckless, foolish and tragic.”
Tehran is facing tougher UN sanctions for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment. The US fears Iran is trying to acquire nuclear weapons, and could use them against Israel. Iran insists its nuclear programme is solely for power generation.
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UN Approves New Sanctions on Iran
The UN Security Council has voted in favour of new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme. Fourteen of the council’s 15 members voted in favour of measures including asset freezes and travel bans for Iranian officials. Indonesia abstained.
Western powers suspect Iran may be developing nuclear weapons, but Iran says its nuclear programme is for energy generation only.
Tehran has refused to comply with demands that it stop enriching uranium. This can be undertaken for power generation, but may also be a precursor to building an atomic bomb.
• Imposes travel bans on five Iranian officials
• Freezes foreign assets of 13 Iranian companies and 13 officials
• Bans sale of dual-use items to Iran
• Urges governments to withdraw financial backing from firms trading with Iran, inspect cargo going into and out of the country, and monitor the activities of two Iranian banks
• Requests IAEA to report on whether Iran has complied with demand to suspend uranium enrichment
If not, threatens further sanctions
This third sanctions resolution — formally submitted by France and Britain — adds to resolutions adopted in 2006 and 2007.
It calls for the foreign assets of 13 Iranian companies to be frozen, and imposes travel bans on five Iranian officials. It bans the sale to Iran of so-called dual-use items – which can have either a military or civilian purpose.
The BBC’s Laura Trevelyan at the UN says the measures are lowest-common-denominator sanctions that even China and Russia — who maintain closer links with Iran than the Western powers — would support. Both China and Russia are permanent, veto-wielding members of the Security Council.
December’s national intelligence estimate by the US, which concluded Iran probably shelved its nuclear weapons programme in 2003, undermined efforts to make these sanctions tougher, says our correspondent.
The resolution received the backing of all five permanent members — which include France, Britain, and the US. The non-permanent members all backed it, except Indonesia, which said it remained to be convinced of the need for sanctions.
In a statement before the vote, Iran’s envoy to the UN, Mohammad Khazee, described the resolution as politically motivated, illegal, and illegitimate. He insisted Iran’s nuclear programme “has been, is, and will remain, absolutely peaceful” – and said Iran would ignore the sanctions.
Mr Khazee said the council’s action was not supported by most of the UN’s 192 member states, nor most people, who viewed “the actions of the council as the result of the political pressure exerted by a few powers to advance their own agendas”.
But the US ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, said it was “just too dangerous for the world to accept this government having access to production of fissile material and getting close or acquiring a nuclear weapons capability”.
In remarks to reporters, the British ambassador to the UN, John Sawers, said the permanent council members would ask EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana to meet Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator to try to resolve the impasse.
He restated an offer made in 2006 to assist Tehran with its civilian nuclear programme, in exchange for the suspension of uranium enrichment.
Israel’s foreign ministry said the resolution was “an unequivocal message that the international community cannot accept Iran’s defiant nuclear programme”.
The UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, reported in February that Iran had cleared up most of the outstanding questions regarding its past nuclear activities. But the IAEA has criticised Iran for refusing to clarify remaining questions about intelligence suggesting Tehran may have been exploring ways to “weaponise” nuclear materials.
Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, has dismissed the intelligence as “forged and fabricated”. He said in Vienna after a meeting of the IAEA’s 35-nation board that “all the outstanding issues have been concluded”.
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Khamenei Hails Iran ‘Nuclear Win’
(February 26, 2008) — Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has hailed Iran’s “great victory” over its nuclear programme. Mr Khamenei praised President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s handling of the issue.
Last week, the UN nuclear watchdog said Iran was being more transparent, but had not given “credible assurances” that it was not building a bomb.
On Monday, the agency heard that Iran may have continued secret work on nuclear weapons after 2003, the date US intelligence suggested the work ceased. Tehran has dismissed the allegations as “forgeries”.
The permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US, UK, China, France and Russia – are meeting in Washington to discuss the possibility of imposing further sanctions on Iran over its disputed atomic programme.
Western countries suspect Iran aims to produce a nuclear bomb. Tehran insists its programme is aimed purely at generating electricity.
“One example of an advance by the Islamic system has been the nuclear issue, in which the Iranian nation has honestly and seriously achieved a great victory,” Mr Khamenei said on Tuesday.
“Those people who used to say Iran’s nuclear activity must be dismantled are now saying we are ready to accept your advances, on condition that it will not continue indefinitely. This is a great advance that would not have been realised except with perseverance,” he said. He went on to praise President Ahmadinejad’s “outstanding” handling of the stand-off with the West.
Under Iran’s system of government, the supreme leader had the final say in major policy matters. In a rare public gesture last month, Mr Khamenei overruled the president over the implementation of a gas sector bill.
The fact that he decided to go public on the issue was interpreted as a signal that he wanted to convey he was not happy with the president.
Mr Ahmadinejad has said no amount of UN sanctions will deter Tehran from its nuclear path. “If they want to continue with that path of sanctions, we will not be harmed. They can issue resolutions for 100 years,” he said in a televised interview on Saturday.
A US National Intelligence Estimate released last December said Tehran had frozen its atomic programme in 2003. But documents presented to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) suggest the work continued. The material was presented to the agency’s 35-nation board by the IAEA’s head of safeguards, Olli Heinonen, in a closed-door meeting on Monday.
Simon Smith, Britain’s ambassador to the IAEA, said material presented to the IAEA in Vienna came from multiple sources and included designs for a nuclear warhead, plus information on how it would perform and how it would fit onto a missile.
“Certainly some of the dates that we were talking about … went beyond 2003,” he said.
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Russia Ignores West’s Iran FearsPaul Reynolds / BBC World Affairs Correspondent
(December 17, 2007) — The delivery by Russia of nuclear fuel to Iran probably says more about Russia’s attitude towards Iran and the West than it does about Iran’s nuclear intentions.
It appears that Russia is unconcerned about Western fears over Iran. The implication is that it will not easily agree to an increase in UN sanctions on Iran.
The fuel, enriched uranium, is to be used in the nuclear plant near Bushehr in southern Iran. This plant is quite separate from Iran’s own uranium enrichment facility at Natanz. The Bushehr power station has been under construction for a long time and is under international inspection.
Russia itself has enriched the uranium for Bushehr. The argument about Iran is that Iran should not do the enrichment, in case it one day uses the technology to make a nuclear bomb.
Nevertheless, Western governments had hoped that Russia would delay delivery, in order to increase the pressure on Iran over its enrichment policy.
“It appears that Russia has decided that there is no longer a political reason to hold up the provision of fuel,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, nuclear expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.
“An important factor was probably the continuation of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s work with Iran on questions about its past activities. The recent report from US intelligence in the National Intelligence Estimate [that Iran was not actively seeking a nuclear weapon] probably confirmed the Russian view. It asked the IAEA to inspect the sealing of the fuel containers at about the same time.
“Russia has probably concluded that Iran is not going to be dissuaded and that enrichment is a fait accompli. Others still believe Iran can be persuaded.”
History of Bushehr
The Bushehr nuclear plant was started back in 1974 under the Shah of Iran, who proposed an extensive nuclear power programme. A German company was contracted to build two reactors. However the work stopped after the Shah was overthrown and it was not until the 1990s that Russia stepped in and agreed to complete the project.
Russia has from time to time announced delays, said to be connected to late payments by Iran (denied by Iran), but thought to be connected to the pressure on Iran to comply with the IAEA and Security Council demand for it to stop its own enrichment programme.
Bushehr is on the verge of completion as a nuclear power plant. Russia has agreed to supply it with the enriched uranium needed as fuel.
Western countries and Russia have offered Iran a similar arrangement for any other nuclear power stations it might build, as long as Iran agrees to stop enriching uranium itself.
Russia might feel that, since Iran is being offered such a deal, its own delivery of fuel is consistent with that policy.
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