VIENNA, Oct 31: The UN nuclear watchdog described Iran’s declaration of its atomic programme as comprehensive but cautioned that the jury is still out on its accuracy, as a crunch deadline falls on Friday for the Islamic Republic to prove it is not secretly making the bomb.
International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei said in Canada on Thursday that the report Iran filed October 23, a week ahead of an IAEA deadline Friday for Iran to prove it is not making nuclear weapons, “looks comprehensive.”
He stressed however that IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) inspectors were “in Iran now, verifying that declaration.”
While ElBaradei’s comment is a positive step for Iran, Iran still faces the possibility the IAEA will judge it to be in non-compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and send the issue to the UN Security Council, which could then impose sanctions.
Nothing definitive is expected to happen Friday. When the deadline runs out the UN agency is set to begin writing a report on Iranian compliance, with the matter to be considered at an IAEA board of governors meeting in Vienna on November 20.
IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said Friday at IAEA headquarters in Vienna that the agency feels the report “appears to address all the areas of their nuclear programme and the questions that we put to them.”
But she said that “whether all the questions are indeed answered is going to take a while to determine.”
“A tremendous amount of follow-up work will be required to determine the report’s completeness and accuracy,” Fleming said.
IAEA officials have said it could take months to verify the Iranian report.
A key question is whether traces of highly enriched uranium found by IAEA inspectors had come from an enrichment programme that could make weapons-grade material or had come from contaminated equipment that had been imported, as Iran claims.
The IAEA had on September 12 given Iran until October 31 to provide full disclosure of its nuclear programme.
Iran seized the diplomatic initiative when it delivered its report to the IAEA last week that it said answered all the agency’s questions.
The IAEA has been investigating Iran’s nuclear programme since February but Tehran only issued the report after reaching an agreement with three leading EU foreign ministers.
The foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany visited Tehran earlier this month to persuade Iran to come clean on its nuclear programme and allow tougher inspections of nuclear sites.
Iran has promised to suspend uranium enrichment that can produce highly enriched uranium usable for nuclear fuel but also to make atomic bombs.
It is currently working through the modalities of suspending uranium enrichment — a key IAEA demand which Iran’s clerical leaders agreed to meet during the visit by Britain’s Jack Straw, Dominique de Villepin of France and Germany’s Joschka Fischer.
The United States said Wednesday that Washington expects Iran to accept increased inspections of its nuclear installations and to meet its international commitments.
“We’ve said that there are three key aspects involved here for Iran to meet its obligations,” said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. “They need to implement — sign and implement the additional protocol; cooperate fully with the IAEA; and once and for all, suspend its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities.”
Iran has said it will sign the additional protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty allowing virtually unannounced inspections of nuclear sites.—AFP