Reuters reported Thursday that the IAEA has formally written to the Bush administration and the the House of Representatives' Select Committee on Intelligence to protest what it called "outrageous and dishonest" distortions of what the IAEA has said and done with respect to Iran's nuclear program.[1]  --  The distortions are to be found in an Aug. 23 committee report, which makes a number of false assertions.  --  "'This (committee report) is déjà vu of the pre-Iraq war period where the facts are being maligned and attempts are being made to ruin the integrity of IAEA inspectors,' said a Western diplomat familiar with the agency and IAEA-U.S. relations," Mark Heinrich reported.  --  An AFP story published Thursday, meanwhile, cast doubts on whether U.S. diplomacy could achieve sanctions against Iran.[2]  --  Skeptics, of course, argue that Iran sanctions, like Iraqi disarmament in the period 1991-2003, are merely a spurious goal of the U.S. national security state, whose real aim is thought to be the creation of an appearance of the failure of international diplomacy so as to offer a veneer of justification for its pursuit of the goal of regime change in Iran through military means....


By Mark Heinrich

September 14, 2006

VIENNA -- U.N. inspectors have protested to the U.S. government and a Congressional committee about a report on Iran's nuclear work, calling parts of it "outrageous and dishonest," according to a letter obtained by Reuters.

The letter recalled clashes between the IAEA and the Bush administration before the 2003 Iraq war over findings cited by Washington about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that proved false, and underlined continued tensions over Iran's dossier.

Sent to the head of the House of Representatives' Select Committee on Intelligence by a senior aide to International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, the letter said an August 23 committee report contained serious distortions of IAEA findings on Iran's activity.

The letter said the errors suggested Iran's nuclear fuel program was much more advanced than a series of IAEA reports and Washington's own intelligence assessments have determined.

It said the report falsely described Iran to have enriched uranium at its pilot centrifuge plant to weapons-grade level in April, whereas IAEA inspectors had made clear Iran had enriched only to a low level usable for nuclear power reactor fuel.

"Furthermore, the IAEA Secretariat takes strong exception to the incorrect and misleading assertion" that the IAEA opted to remove a senior safeguards inspector for supposedly concluding the purpose of Iran's program was to build weapons, it said.

The letter said the congressional report contained "an outrageous and dishonest suggestion" that the inspector was dumped for having not adhered to an alleged IAEA policy barring its "officials from telling the whole truth" about Iran.

Diplomats say the inspector remains IAEA Iran section head.

The IAEA has been inspecting Iran's nuclear program since 2003. Although it has found no hard evidence that Iran is working on atomic weapons, it has uncovered many previously concealed activities linked to uranium enrichment, a process of purifying fuel for nuclear power plants or weapons.

IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said: "We felt obliged to put the record straight with regard to the facts on what we have reported on Iran. It's a matter of the integrity of the IAEA."

Diplomats say Washington, spearheading efforts to isolate Iran with sanctions over its nuclear work, has long perceived ElBaradei to be "soft" on Tehran.

"This (committee report) is déjà vu of the pre-Iraq war period where the facts are being maligned and attempts are being made to ruin the integrity of IAEA inspectors," said a Western diplomat familiar with the agency and IAEA-U.S. relations.



September 14, 2006

WASHINGTON -- The United States acknowledged that it will face tough resistance from some of its key allies as it presses for U.N. sanctions against Iran over its suspect nuclear program.

Iran's refusal to comply with U.N. demands that it suspend uranium enrichment activities some fear could produce nuclear weapons is set to feature high on the agenda when world leaders gather in New York next week for the U.N. General Assembly.

U.S. officials have for weeks been expressing strong confidence that the permanent Security Council members -- Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States -- will swiftly reach agreement on political and economic sanctions designed to force Tehran to abandon its enrichment program.

Such sanctions were called for in a Security Council resolution adopted in July, which gave Iran until August 31 to freeze its enrichment activity -- a demand Tehran ignored.

But with some Security Council partners increasingly reticent to go down the path of sanctions, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack admitted Thursday that the upcoming negotiations would be "hard-fought."

"The reality of it is that there are going to be intense negotiations on this," he said.

McCormack predicted the process of trying to hammer out a sanctions package with the other Security Council members "would take weeks," a far less ambitious timetable than put forward earlier by Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, who said a deal would be reached in September.

But McCormack continued to express confidence Washington's allies would ultimately back the sanctions foreshadowed in their earlier resolution.

"Our diplomatic interactions indicate that while this will be complex, sometimes hard-fought diplomacy, that we will, in fact, end up with a Security Council resolution that includes sanctions," he said.

Earlier Thursday, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy issued a thinly veiled warning to Washington and Britain -- the other staunch advocate of sanctions -- that pressing too hard for sanctions could fracture the coalition confronting Iran.

"If one or two of the permanent members of the Security Council fail to uphold this dialogue, and there is a growing drive -- on either side -- towards confrontation, the international community would split," he said.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao also warned on Thursday that imposing sanctions on Iran could have the "opposite effect" of hardening Iran's stance in the showdown.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said Washington wants the sanctions to be imposed in a graduated manner to build pressure on Iran to give up its enrichment program and accept international offers to help it develop a monitored civilian nuclear power industry.

Rice confirmed Wednesday that she will meet her fellow foreign ministers from the permanent Security Council members plus Germany on the sidelines of the General Assembly meeting in New York to discuss the sanctions.