As expected, the IAEA board in Vienna voted to censure Iran for the secret nuclear facility it revealed only in early October, but the margin of the vote, 25-3 and including the votes of Russia and China, was even wider than expected, Reuters reported Friday.[1]  --  "Cuba, Malaysia, and Venezuela, prominent in a developing nation bloc that includes Iran, voted 'no,' while Afghanistan, Brazil, Egypt, Pakistan, South Africa, and Turkey abstained," Mark Heinrich reported.  "Azerbaijan missed the ballot."  --  "Diplomats said the large number of abstentions indicated important developing states were souring on Iran over its nuclear defiance, particularly its hold-up of the fuel deal."  --  McClatchy Newspapers reported that Gary Sick, a well-known Iran expert at Columbia University, said the vote could jar Iran:  "I think the Iranians will hear this very clearly, the fact that both the Russians and Chinese voted yes, that you can't just count on them to be your perpetual supporters.  It's conceivable they might come back with a counteroffer of some sort.  I hope very much that this will lead to another round of discussions."[2]  --  But Sick added that "The vote by the Russians and the Chinese should not be taken as an indicator they're now prepared to go to really severe sanctions."  --  India said explicitly that its vote in favor of the resolution did mean it would support a "renewed punitive approach or new sanctions," the Hindu reported.[3]  --  Iran's Press TV reported the Islamic Republic's rejection of the resolution as "politcally motivated" and said the IAEA was failing to protect Iran's rights under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.[4]  --  Laura Rozen of the website Politico said that the Obama administration regarded the vote as "savored vindication" and a fruit of President Barack Obama's recent recent Asian tour.[5] ...




By Mark Heinrich

November 27, 2009

VIENNA -- The U.N. nuclear watchdog voted Friday to rebuke Iran for building a uranium enrichment plant in secret but Tehran rejected the move as "intimidation" which would poison its negotiations with world powers.

The resolution was the first by the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) against Iran in almost four years, and a sign of spreading alarm over Tehran's failure to dispel fears it has clandestine plans to build nuclear bombs.

It passed by a 25-3 margin with six abstentions, smoothed by rare backing from Russia and China, which have blocked global attempts to isolate Iran, a trade partner for both, in the past.

But it was far from clear whether the West could now coax Moscow and Beijing to join in biting sanctions against Iran, something they have long prevented at the U.N. Security Council.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said Iran should "react with full seriousness to the signal contained in the resolution ... and to ensure full cooperation with the agency."

Moscow and Beijing's support is seen as vital to the success of external pressure on Iran to rein in its nuclear activity and open it up to unfettered IAEA inspections and investigations.

The vote reflected exasperation with Iran's retreat from an IAEA-brokered draft deal to provide it with fuel for a medical nuclear reactor if it agreed to part with its enriched uranium, which could be turned into bomb material if further refined.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said major powers would pursue harsher sanctions against Iran if it ignored the vote.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband "should send a very clear warning to Iran that it is not going to be able to divide the international community," Miliband told Reuters in an interview at a Commonwealth summit in Trinidad and Tobago.


The resolution urged Iran to clarify the original purpose of the Fordow enrichment site, hidden inside a mountain bunker, stop construction, and confirm there are no more hidden sites.

Iran said those demands were beyond its legal obligations.

The United States said the IAEA vote showed an urgent need for Iran to address the growing "deficit of confidence" over its nuclear intentions.  Time is running out, the White House said, and Iran would be responsible for the consequences.

The measure won blanket Western backing.  Cuba, Malaysia, and Venezuela, prominent in a developing nation bloc that includes Iran, voted "no," while Afghanistan, Brazil, Egypt, Pakistan, South Africa and Turkey abstained. Azerbaijan missed the ballot.

Diplomats said the large number of abstentions indicated important developing states were souring on Iran over its nuclear defiance, particularly its hold-up of the fuel deal.

But, they said, the IAEA resolution could lead Iranian hardliners to seize on it as excuse to restrict inspections further and re-freeze talks, killing off the reactor fuel plan.

The Islamic Republic has counted on Non-Aligned Movement solidarity to help prevent a united front against it.

Israel sees Iran's nuclear program as an existential threat given Iranian comments calling for the destruction of the Jewish state and has not ruled out military strikes against the sites.  It said the IAEA resolution was of "great importance."

Israel's Foreign Ministry called for the international community to ensure the decision bore a "practical significance by setting a timetable to require the imposition of stiff sanctions against Iran in response to any violations."

Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons, saying its atomic energy program is purely for peaceful purposes.  But its record of clandestine nuclear work and curbs on IAEA inspections have stoked suspicions and a seven-year standoff with world powers.

Iranian Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh called the resolution a "hasty and undue" step devoid of legal basis.


"The great nation of Iran will never bow to pressure and intimidation vis-à-vis its inalienable right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy," he said.

"We will not implement any word of it because this is a politically motivated gesture against the Iranian nation."

He said Iran would continue to allow basic inspections at its nuclear sites but could stop making "voluntary gestures" of extra cooperation such as when it allowed widened surveillance at its rapidly expanding main enrichment complex at Natanz.

Soltanieh said the resolution would also ruin the atmosphere for further talks with the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia, and China launched on October 1 in Geneva, where the reactor fuel plan was agreed in principle.

"Such gestures . . . are certainly destructive.  They spoil the existing cooperative environment.  But neither sanctions nor the threat of military attacks can interrupt our peaceful nuclear activities even for a second," he said.

Iran admitted Fordow's existence in September, at least two years into its construction, shocking IAEA inspectors.  Western diplomats said Iran was forced to come clean after learning the site had been detected by their spy services.

Iran had assured the IAEA last year it was not hiding any nuclear-related activities despite rules that it be transparent.

Fordow's emergence fanned suspicions there are more secret sites intended to produce atom bombs, since experts said the plant's capacity was too small to feed a civilian nuclear power plant, but big enough to make weapons material.

Iran's main, larger enrichment plant, at Natanz, was exposed by Iranian opposition exiles in 2002.

Iran has told the IAEA it developed the Fordow site in secret as a backup for other, known facilities, in case they were bombed by Israel.

The last IAEA board resolution against Iran was in February 2006, when governors referred Tehran's dossier to the U.N. Security Council over its refusal to shelve enrichment.

(Additional reporting by Sylvia Westall in Vienna, Adrian Croft in Trinidad, Sophie Hardach in Paris and David Alexander in Washington; editing by Jon Hemming and Todd Eastham)



By Margaret Talev and Nancy A. Youssef

McClatchy Newspapers
November 27, 2009

WASHINGTON -- The United Nations nuclear agency blasted Iran in a resolution Friday for obstructing investigations into its suspected nuclear weapons program and demanded that the Islamic Republic stop enriching uranium at a once-secret facility.

In response, the Obama administration suggested that world powers might be moving closer to imposing international sanctions on Iran.  White House press secretary Robert Gibbs called a 25-3 vote on the resolution by the International Atomic Energy Agency "overwhelming" and said it "demonstrates the resolve and unity of the international community with regard to Iran's nuclear program."

"Our patience and that of the international community is limited, and time is running out," Gibbs said.  "If Iran refuses to meet its obligations, then it will be responsible for its own growing isolation and the consequences."

On Thursday, Mohamed ElBaradei, the outgoing head of the IAEA, issued an unusually blunt public statement, saying that Iran has refused to give his investigators information about its efforts to design a nuclear weapon and that the agency's efforts to discover the truth had "effectively reached a dead end."

Although it can be difficult to distinguish Iran's bottom lines from its bargaining positions, Tehran's refusal to carry out a tentative deal in October to ship most of its nuclear fuel to Russia and France for reprocessing leaves other nations with two ways to try to ensure that Iran doesn't obtain nuclear weapons:  tough sanctions and pre-emptive military action.

Israeli officials have said that they consider a nuclear-armed Iran an existential threat, and Israel crippled Saddam Hussein's nuclear program with an airstrike in 1981.  However, it isn't clear whether -- without U.S. assistance -- Israel's military could deal a comparable blow to Iran's nuclear facilities, which are farther away, more spread out and deeply buried.

It also remains unclear how far China and Russia, which joined in support of Friday's resolution but have scuttled past attempts to sanction Iran, would go now -- or whether sanctions could curb Iran's nuclear activities.

Two senior Obama administration officials who spoke Friday from Vienna, where the IAEA is headquartered, emphasized that any decision on sanctions is weeks away.

As for China and Russia, "We intend to take this very steadily," said one of the officials, both of whom spoke only on the condition of anonymity as a matter of administration policy.  However, "I think their commitment is clear."

This was the IAEA's first such vote against Iran in nearly four years.  Cuba, Malaysia, and Venezuela voted no, and six nations abstained.

Gary Sick, a Columbia University expert on Iran who once served on the staff of the National Security Council, said the vote could be significant enough to convince Iran to return to the table for renewed talks, despite a defiant initial response.

"I think the Iranians will hear this very clearly, the fact that both the Russians and Chinese voted yes, that you can't just count on them to be your perpetual supporters," Sick said.  "It's conceivable they might come back with a counteroffer of some sort.  I hope very much that this will lead to another round of discussions."

However, Sick said, "The vote by the Russians and the Chinese should not be taken as an indicator they're now prepared to go to really severe sanctions."

Even if they are, and if all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus one -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the U.S. -- do agree to any sanctions, Sick predicted that it "will after a lot of negotiation turn out to be a tightening of the financial screws.  And if it's simply a tightening of the financial screws, I don't think it will make much difference.  In other words, the bark is much worse than the bite."

"The Iranians don't like sanctions and they also don't like being singled out for public criticism," Sick said.  "That doesn't mean they're going to turn around and change their whole policy."

During a meeting with six world leaders Oct. 1 in Geneva, Iran agreed to open its once-secret facility in Qom to IAEA inspectors and to send its partially enriched uranium from a Tehran nuclear reactor to France and Russia to be turned into fuel for medical research.  So far, though, it's refused a follow-up meeting.

Iran maintains that its nuclear program is peaceful in nature, despite its secretive attitude and hostility toward Israel.  The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said Friday through the Islamic Republic News Agency that the IAEA resolution was "showy" and "vain."

One U.S. senior official said that any sanctions that might be considered would look to hurt the Iranian regime, not everyday Iranians, but he didn't elaborate.

The administration said that Iran had until the end of the year to engage cooperatively; after that it may face a "package of consequences."



By Malini Parthasarathy

Hindu (Chennai [formerly Madras], India)
November 27, 2009

PORT OF SPAIN -- India, which voted for the IAEA resolution against Iran’s failure to implement fully all its safeguard obligations under the IAEA regime, has also made clear that this resolution should not be the basis of a “renewed punitive approach or new sanctions” against Iran.

Official sources in the Prime Minister’s delegation here, attending the CHOGM [Commonwealth Heads of Govermnent Meeting, a biennial summit], said India’s support for the resolution was based on the key points contained in the report of the Director-General of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei.  At earlier Board meetings, India had consistently underlined the critical importance of dialogue between the Agency and Iran.  It, however, felt that the conclusions drawn in Mr. ElBaradei’s report were difficult to ignore.

It was felt, these sources said, that the Agency’s safeguards system was the bedrock of the international community’s “confidence” that peaceful uses of nuclear energy and nonproliferation objectives can be pursued together and that the “integrity of the system” should be preserved.

It is evident that with India’s own stakes in finalizing a reprocessing deal with the United States being high, the Indian government does not want to be seen on the wrong side of the nuclear nonproliferation regime.  Striking a balance between these compulsions and its ties with Iran, India is adopting a conciliatory stance, asserting that the coming weeks should be used to expand the diplomatic space to address the issues.  The door must be kept open for dialogue and avoidance of confrontation, the sources were at pains to say.



Nuclear energy


Press TV (Iran)
Novmeber 27, 2009§ionid=351020104

Tehran has rejected an IAEA resolution against its nuclear program as a 'politically motivated' measure aimed at depriving Iran of its basic rights.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Friday passed a new resolution against Iran over the construction of its Fordo enrichment plant, located outside Tehran.

In an exclusive interview with Press TV on Friday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast rejected the resolution, saying it was passed "with insistence and political ambitions of certain member states."

"We think that this [resolution] is politically motivated and only aimed at exerting pressure on Iran," he said.

The resolution, which was drafted by the P5+1 -- the five permanent member of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany -- and was passed in a 25-3 vote with six abstentions, calls on Iran to immediately halt construction of its second enrichment facility.

Opposed by Malaysia, Venezuela, and Cuba, the resolution also urges Iran to clarify what it calls the purpose and the chronology of the plant's construction.  It also wants Iran to confirm it has no more hidden nuclear plants and no intentions whatsoever to build one.

Mehmanparast added that, by passing the resolution, the IAEA has failed a critical test to defend the rights of the members of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).

"This is a critical moment for the U.N. nuclear watchdog because all members of the Non-proliferation Treaty especially those of the Non-aligned Movement are following this case to see how the agency defends their inalienable rights."

"Iran, as an NPT member and as a country that is against the use of nuclear weapons and supports the idea of the world free of nuclear weapons, should be able to enjoy its basic rights," he added.

The spokesman warned that attempts aimed at denying Iran its nuclear rights could reduce the country's cooperation to "a legally mandated minimum," which means Iran will not go beyond its legal obligations.

"If some member states want to take a political path in dealing with Iran's nuclear case by exerting pressure on the IAEA and consequently deprive us of our basic rights then we are not obliged to continue our cooperation with the agency at the maximum level and as a member of the agency we will limit our cooperation with the IAEA to a legally mandated minimum," he concluded.


Laura Rozen on foreign policy


by Laura Rozen

November 27, 2009

As Russia and China joined 25 nations voting at the International Atomic Energy Agency today to issue a resolution censuring Iran for its failure to disclose a nuclear enrichment facility, the Obama White House savored vindication.

Having faced recent chatter that it had little to show for Obama's recent Asia trip, following previous skepticism that its decision to cancel missile defense installations in Eastern Europe would win anything but contempt from Russia, the White House was able to show some of the first concrete results in today's 25-3 vote at the IAEA today censuring Iran over failing to disclose its Qom enrichment  until this past September.

The resolution was hailed by the White House and won praise from the Israeli government, which has previously expressed skepticism that much can be gained from trying to engage Iran.

"Today's overwhelming vote at the IAEA's Board of Governors demonstrates the resolve and unity of the international community with regard to Iran's nuclear program," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement.  "Indeed, the fact that 25 countries from all parts of the world cast their votes in favor shows the urgent need for Iran to address the growing international deficit of confidence in its intentions."

"Israel commends the resolution today" by the IAEA board of governors, Israeli embassy spokesman Jonathan Peled said.

Even if its efforts to engage Iran directly over its nuclear program fail to ultimately win Iran's cooperation, today's vote helps the Obama administration make the case that those efforts have helped demonstrate to key members of the international community, notably Russia and China, that the U.S. is doing everything it can to work the Iran issue diplomatically in consultation with them, non-proliferation experts noted.

The resolution is "very positive in that Iran is isolating itself, and others are expressing lost patience," says the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace nuclear expert George Perkovich.  "As Obama appears more reasonable to others, a change in Iran's governance seems less alarming, i.e. for Russians, Chinese."

Only three nations voted against the resolution -- Cuba, Venezuela and Malaysia -- while several abstained, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, South Africa, and Brazil, where Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad traveled this week.

The White House has recently been pushing back against criticism that it had few deliverables to show from Obama's recent Asia trip.  The *Washington Post* reported yesterday that two top officials from Obama's National Security Council secretly traveled to China last month to urge Chinese support for the Iran resolution it voted for today.

One observation is that the White House itself has tried to lower expectations before such international trips, by essentially saying it seeks no concrete deliverables in advance that it might not be able to get.  When in fact, it is working behind the scenes to seek specific deliverables, including from China on climate change targets and the Iran censure resolution.

The White House move to lower expectations of possible deliverables sought before such complex international trips seems in part a reaction to earlier disappointments, including a June Obama meeting with Saudi's King Abdullah.  The White House said Obama had sought no specific deliverables from the meeting, whose purpose was merely to deepen the relationship between the two leaders who had previously met at the G-20 meeting in London in the spring.  But reports and sources said the White House had been disappointed that in their meeting Abdullah rejected suggestions that he might provide interim confidence building measures towards Israel to reinforce the administration's effort to advance the Middle East peace process.

While the White House can savor today's victory at the IAEA, the effort to secure U.N. Security Council consensus for possible further international sanctions against Iran if it continues to reject requests for international cooperation will remain a tougher hurdle.

"It [is] a positive sign that Russia and China agreed to a resolution calling on Iran to suspend construction of Qom, but it would have been even better if the resolution again urged the Security Council to review recent developments," said Bush-era NSC official Jamie Fly, now with the Foreign Policy Initiative.  "Until the Security Council passes meaningful sanctions, there is little hope of forcing Iran to comply with its obligations."