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Updated: November 27, 2009 20:07 IST

IAEA censures Iran; asks to halt uranium enrichment

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Iran's Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Ali Asghar Soltanieh, checks his papers prior to the start of the IAEA's 35-nation board meeting at Vienna's International Center, in Vienna, on Thursday.
Iran's Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Ali Asghar Soltanieh, checks his papers prior to the start of the IAEA's 35-nation board meeting at Vienna's International Center, in Vienna, on Thursday.

The board of the U.N. nuclear watchdog censured Iran on Friday, with 25 nations backing a resolution that demands Tehran immediately freeze construction of its newly revealed nuclear facility and heed Security Council resolutions calling on it to stop uranium enrichment.

Iran remained defiant, with its chief representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency declaring that his country would resist “pressure, resolutions, sanction(s) and threat of military attack.”

The resolution, and the resulting vote of the IAEA’s 35-nation decision-making board, were significant on several counts.

The resolution was endorsed by six world powers, the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, reflecting a rare measure of unity on Iran.

“Six nations ... for the first time came together (and) ... have put together this resolution we all agreed on,” Glyn Davies, the chief U.S. delegate to the IAEA, told reporters. “That’s a significant development.”

The resolution passed on Friday by the IAEA Board of Governors sends a strong signal to Iran that its actions and intentions remain a matter of grave international concern.

“The United States remains firmly committed to a peaceful resolution to international concerns over Iran’s nuclear program,” Mr. Davies said. “We also remain willing to engage Iran to work toward a diplomatic solution to the nuclear dilemma it has created itself, if Iran would only choose such a course.

“But our patience and that of the international community is limited,” Mr. Davies said, urging Tehran to “demonstrate its exclusively peaceful (nuclear) intent, rather than to carry out more evasions and unilateral interpretations of its obligations.”

Strong support for the resolution at the meeting was also notable. Only three nations, Cuba, Venezuela and Malaysia, voted against the document, with six abstentions and one member absent.

That meant even most nonaligned IAEA board members abandoned Tehran, despite their traditional backing of the Islamic Republic.

The IAEA resolution criticized Iran for defying a U.N. Security Council ban on uranium enrichment, the source of both nuclear fuel and the fissile core of warheads.

It also censured Iran for secretly building a uranium enrichment facility and demanded that it immediately suspend further construction. It noted that IAEA chief Mohamed El Baradei cannot confirm that Tehran’s nuclear program is exclusively geared toward peaceful uses, and expressed “serious concern” that Iranian stonewalling of an IAEA probe means “the possibility of military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program” cannot be excluded.

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s chief delegate to the IAEA, shrugged off the vote, telling reporters: “I am relaxed.”

Separately, in remarks to the closed meeting made available to reporters, he declared that “neither resolutions of the board of governors nor those of the United Nations Security Council ... neither sanctions nor the treat of military attacks, can interrupt peaceful nuclear activities in Iran, even a second,” he told the closed meeting, in remarks made available to reporters.

In a letter to El Baradei, Mr. Soltanieh suggested his country could in future further restrict IAEA access to its nuclear activities, arguing that leaks to the media of confidential information “pose security threat(s) against the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear facilities and activities.”

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