October 1, 2009
In a special comment Thursday night, Oct. 1, President Barack Obama administered a cold shower to the Iranian delegate Saeed Jalili and European official Javier Solana, who earlier in the day at the end of the six-power meeting with Iran in Geneva, smilingly announced a second round of talks would take place within weeks. In a side meeting, Jalili also had a one-on-one meeting with US undersecretary of state William Burns, who did not join the announcement.
Obama's first condition for another round of talks was that International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors be given "unfettered access within two weeks" to Iran's newly-discovered uranium enrichment facility near Qom.
His second: "Iran must prove its program is peaceful."
Iran had already announce that inspection would be allowed but, according to DEBKAfile's military sources, "unfettered access" would expose additional secret plants hidden at the Qom underground site whose sole function is to support a military program.
The US president's third condition was no less problematic for Iran:
"The IAEA has proposed in principle that Iran transfer its enrichment production to a third country."Iran has a right to peaceful energy, he said, but rights also carry obligations.
This condition means that Iran must pack up its enrichment facilities and rely on a third country, a proposition it rejected in the past when put by Russia. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said he is willing to "purchase" enriched uranium from Russia, but Tehran would never give up Iran's "right" to make its own fissile fuel in any circumstances.
Obama said distinctly that today's meeting was a constructive meeting but it must be followed by concrete actions.
"The burden is now on Iran." He added: "We are willing to engage Iran but our patience is not unlimited."He did not say the word sanctions only that Iran's non-compliance would be met with international pressure and isolation.
Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said British claims of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme were unfounded.
September 30, 2009
The UN's chief weapons inspector, Mohamed ElBaradei, said today he had seen "no credible evidence" that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, rejecting British intelligence allegations that a weapons programme has been going on for at least four years.
The claims and counter-claims came on the eve of a potentially decisive meeting in Geneva between diplomats from six world powers and an Iranian delegation about Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
Iran insists its programme is for peaceful purposes, and that there is nothing illegal about a uranium enrichment plant under construction near the city of Qom, the existence of which was revealed last week. Iranian leaders say they did not have to inform the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) until six months before the first uranium was processed.
But ElBaradei, the outgoing IAEA director general, publicly disagreed today, saying Iran had been under an obligation to tell the agency "on the day it was decided to construct the facility." He said the Iranian government was "on the wrong side of the law."
However, ElBaradei rejected British intelligence claims that Iran had reactivated its weapons programme at least four years ago. By making the claims, the UK broke with the official US intelligence position that Iranian work on developing a warhead probably stopped in 2003. They said that even if there was a halt, as reported in a US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) two years ago, the programme restarted in late 2004 or early 2005.
British officials had been privately sceptical about the NIE finding since its publication in 2007, but this was the first time they had made detailed allegations about Iran's weapons programme.
BND, the German intelligence organisation, this year provided evidence in a court case saying it believed weapons work in Iran had continued after 2003. A leaked internal memo written by the IAEA also found that Iran probably had "sufficient information" to build a bomb, and that it had "probably tested" a high-explosive component of a nuclear warhead.
ElBaradei has angrily rejected claims from Israel, France and the US that he had suppressed the internal IAEA report, saying all relevant and confirmed information had been presented to member states.
Tomorrow's talks will take place in a secluded villa on the edge of Geneva. The Iranian delegation will be led by its chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, who at a similar meeting in Switzerland last year delivered a lecture more than two hours long about recent Iranian history and the global balance of power. But he refused to discuss Iran's nuclear programme.
Iranian officials say its programme remains non-negotiable, despite five UN security council resolutions calling for Iran to suspend enrichment. Western negotiators say they will push for a date for an IAEA inspection of the Qom uranium plant, and further concrete steps from the Iranian government to restore international confidence in the peaceful purpose of its programme. Failing that, multilateral talks will start on the imposition of more sanctions.
The Kremlin said today that the Russian position on sanctions would depend on the degree of Iranian cooperation with the IAEA. However, Russia and China are expected to resist the far-reaching measures aimed at Iran's energy sector being promoted by the US, Britain and France.