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ElBaradei Argues for Negotiation With Iran
Sees "window of opportunity" to diffuse crisis
Ronda Hauben (netizen2)     Print Article 
Published 2007-03-01 14:08 (KST)   
Many nations use nuclear fuel to generate electricity. Nations like South Africa who use nuclear energy have to buy the enriched uranium from nations that can do the enrichment. The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohamed ElBaradei, says there are 12 or 13 countries with the technical capability to do the 5 percent uranium enrichment needed for nuclear energy fuel production. Iran says that given the difficulties it has had in having access to advanced technology, it needs to be able to enrich uranium for its own generation of electricity.

The U.S. government claims that Iran has other intentions and that once Iran masters uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes it will acquire a capability that can lead to the creation of nuclear weapons. The U.S. government has taken the position that the right to do uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes is a loophole in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). (1)

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The production of nuclear weapons requires significantly greater technical capacity than the ability to do 5 percent enrichment of uranium. The U.S., however, wants to stop Iran from any development of uranium enrichment technology. The U.N. Security Council supported this effort by imposing sanctions against Iran in December 2006 as part of Security Council Resolution 1737. For the sanctions to end, Iran would have to stop its enrichment activity.

Iran, for its part, insists that it has the right to master the technology needed for the peaceful production of nuclear energy and that it won't stop its peaceful enrichment program. As a signatory of the NPT, Iran has the right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

The Iranian government says it is willing to negotiate but it is not willing to accept the precondition that it cease enrichment activity before being able to negotiate. It is in this context that the drama is unfolding at the U.N. in the Security Council.

In an interview (2) with the Financial Times, IAEA Director General ElBaradei argues for negotiations with Iran rather than hostile actions that will further polarize the underlying disagreements. ElBaradei maintains that hostile actions are counterproductive to the aims of the NPT.

ElBaradei oversees the inspection and monitoring of nuclear activity of all countries that are signatories to the NPT. Explaining why he is in favor of dialog and of negotiation, ElBaradei says, "I know if you engage people, you moderate their behavior. If you isolate them you radicalize them."

"What is really important to have," says ElBaradei, is "a proper diagnosis of the problem, assess the problem properly."

ElBaradei explains that the hostile actions and words against a nation are a pressure that can provoke a nation to feel it needs a nuclear deterrent. Applying such reasoning to the situation with Iran he explains:

"Even if they were not going to develop a nuclear weapon today, this would be a sure recipe for them to go down that route."

ElBaradei advises the U.S. give Iran security guarantees, "Then we should also stop calling names and threatening regime change."

When Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. Secretary General, visited Vienna on Feb. 23, he met with ElBaradei. When asked if there is anything the Secretary General is doing to encourage negotiation in this period. Ban's spokesperson Michele Montas replied:

"The Secretary General met with ElBaradei. They discussed it and Mr. ElBaradei is doing that effort you are talking about."(3)

ElBaradei notes that the IAEA has issued its report as required by Security Council Resolution 1737, but that the report will not be acted on until March 6 when the IAEA Council meets and the IAEA member nations vote to approve or reject the report. Until that date he can change the report. "I can add or reverse judgments there until the March 6," said ElBaradei. This means, he explained, that the period between Feb. 22 and March 6 presents a "window of opportunity" for negotiations with Iran.

He urged Iran and the nations on the Security Council to utilize this opportunity to find a way to have engagement based on dialog to reconcile their differences.

Iran has indicated it is willing to negotiate but will not agree to the precondition that it suspend its enrichment before such negotiations take place.

Hans Blix, the former chief weapons inspector in Iraq has explained that it is a "humiliating" and a "neocolonial attitude" to demand that Iran cease its enrichment activity before any negotiations are possible.

Iran contends that 5 percent enrichment of uranium is its right under the NPT. And that it is being singled out and denied the right that the NPT provides.

ElBaradei explains that as long as Iran's enrichment activities are carried out under the IAEA, oversight to limit the degree of enrichment to 5 percent can be maintained. Also he would like to get Iran to agree to the Additional Protocol which would provide the IAEA with additional authority for other forms of inspection. Iran had voluntarily signed the Additional Protocol but withdrew from it when the IAEA 35 nation board voted to require Iran to suspend enrichment activity. ElBaradei says that Iran's agreement to accept the Additional Protocol would give the IAEA the authority it needs to better inspect the manufacture of equipment.

On Sunday, Feb. 25, Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani met with South African President Thabo Mbeki and explained that: "Setting a precondition for negotiation means reaching a conclusion ahead of the talks, which has been an unsuccessful policy."(4)

South Africa is currently a non-permanent member on the U.N. Security Council and holds the presidency of the Council during the month of March. South Africa has one nuclear plant for the production of nuclear energy and has "voiced its firm decision to build a second nuclear power plant." It intends to study various methods of uranium enrichment to produce the fuel needed by its power plants rather than only rely on foreign sources.(5)

Italy is also a non-permanent member of the Council. On Sunday, Feb. 25 and Monday Feb. 26 the Century Foundation sponsored a program at the Millennium U.N. Plaza Hotel on "Weapons threats and International Security: Rebuilding an Unraveled Consensus" (6) The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the U.N. provided the idea and support for the program. Both Blix and Iran's Ambassador to the U.N. Javad Zarif spoke during the events of the conference.

The upcoming deliberations in the Security Council also come at a time of discussion about the need for reform of the Security Council's practices and composition by a number of U.N. member states, including several of the non-permanent members of the current Security Council. (7)

Among the issues being raised by those advocating reform, is the concern that the Security Council takes up issues that are not appropriate under its mandate and doesn't take up other issues that are appropriate.

Iran contends that the issue of its enrichment activity is an issue that belongs in the IAEA not in the Security Council. It has complained that transferring the issue of how it adheres to the obligations under the NPT to the Security Council has served to politicize what is a technical process.

Whether the U.S. and other proponents of sanctions against Iran will prevail in the Security Council deliberations, or whether the voices of those nations which argue for a negotiated process to find a solution to the dispute will succeed, will become apparent in upcoming developments in the Security Council. But the controversy over whether under the NPT a nation is allowed to develop a 5 percent uranium enrichment capacity to make possible the production of nuclear fuel for nuclear energy generation is a controversy that merits public understanding and consideration.

ElBaradei, stressing the importance of keeping Iran's nuclear development within the confines of the oversight of the IAEA and the NPT explains: "to aim at denying a country knowledge is almost impossible, to say the least. And there's a big difference between acquiring the knowledge for enrichment and developing a bomb."

(1)"Hostile Act" Telepolis 12/30/2006 http://www.heise.de/tp/r4/artikel/24/24319/1.html
(2) Transcript of the Director General's Interview on Iran and DPRK
Financial Times with Daniel Dombey Feb. 19 2007
(3) http://webcast.un.org/ramgen/pressbriefing/brief070226.rm starting at 16:57
(4)"Larijani returns home from S. African visit" from Islamic Republic News Agency, IRNA Feb. 27 http://www2.irna.com/en/news/view/line-22/0702270655174113.htm
(5) http://www.presstv.ir/pop/print.aspx?id=858
(6) http://www.tcf.org/list.asp?type=EV&pubid=176
(7) States Call for Security Council Reform
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Ronda Hauben

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