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Iran Frustrates IAEA Efforts

The June board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, opened with Director General Mohamed ElBaradei expressing regret that the IAEA had not been able to make progress on assessing the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. "Iran has not provided the agency with all the access to documents and to individuals requested by the [IAEA] Secretariat," said Mr. ElBaradei, "nor has Iran provided the substantive explanations required to support its statements. Such clarifications are critical to an assessment of the nature of Iran’s past and present nuclear program."

At the end of the meeting, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said to the press, "We have given comprehensive responses, information, and documents." He continued, "We have done our job. The matter is over."

But the matter is far from over. As Gregory Schulte, the U.S. Representative to the IAEA, told the Board, "The questions that remain unanswered strongly suggest that Iran has undertaken a significant state-sponsored effort to develop nuclear weapons – an effort that agency inspectors are not in a position to verify has halted."

Although Iran has repeatedly claimed that its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes, the international community remains unconvinced. The U.N. Security Council has adopted three legally binding sanctions resolutions demanding that Iran stop all enrichment, reprocessing, and heavy-water related activities which could lead to the production of a nuclear weapon. Iran is also obligated to provide any access or cooperation the IAEA needs to answer unresolved questions about its nuclear program. The IAEA’s May 26th report on Iran makes it clear that Iran continues to defy the Security Council on both matters.

In a recent speech, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice questioned Iran’s claims about the peaceful goal of its nuclear program:

"Why has Iran rejected, thus far, Russia’s offer of uranium enrichment in Russia? Why, as the IAEA’s most recent report shows, is Iran continuing to enrich uranium in violation of UN Security Council resolutions? Why, as the IAEA also suggests, are parts of Iran’s nuclear program under the control of the Iranian military? And why is Iran continuing to deny international experts full access to its nuclear facilities?"

"It’s ... hard to imagine that there are innocent answers to these questions," said Secretary of State Rice.