The Iranian foreign minister says Iran is fully cooperating with the UN nuclear watchdog, stressing that there have been no diversions in the country's nuclear program.
Manouchehr Mottaki made the comments as the new head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano, accused Iran in a meeting of the Board of Governors of not cooperating sufficiently with the UN body over its nuclear program.
In a Monday news conference in Geneva, Mottaki said, "The new chief and the new managers of the agency should look at the record of Iran's cooperation."
"We have fully cooperated with the agency. This cooperation will continue," he said.
"We have always welcomed and encouraged negotiations and talks."
Earlier Monday, Amano said in his opening address to the meeting that the IAEA continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran but is unable to confirm that all nuclear material in the country is being used for peaceful activities as Iran has not provided the agency with the "necessary cooperation."
Mottaki insisted that Tehran was among countries "most committed" to the IAEA, when asked about his reaction to the watchdog's concerns. "We were and we are," he stressed.
Amano said a UN proposal to supply Iran with fuel for the Tehran nuclear research reactor was still on the table.
The proposal would require Iran to send most of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Russia and subsequently France for further enrichment and conversion into metal fuel rods.
While the Tehran research reactor, which produces medical radioisotopes for cancer treatment, is already running out of fuel, based on the draft Iran would receive a shipment of the nuclear fuel at a later time.
Iran was still having negotiations with different parties on the issue of an exchange of nuclear fuel, Mottaki said.
"The issue of swap, it is possible to be carried out. The agreement could be made now, but the realization, the fulfillment of the swap needs time," he said.
Tehran has cited the West's previous failures to meet its commitments and provide Iran with nuclear fuel as a cause for concern over the delivery of the fuel.
After the powers ignored Tehran's concerns over the absence of necessary guarantees, Iran decided to domestically enrich uranium to a level of 20 percent.
Iran, a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), rejects the allegations of having military objectives in its nuclear program as politically motivated and says its nuclear work is completely peaceful and within the framework of the NPT.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=119776§ionid=351020104
2. Clinton Appears to Extend Timeline for Iran Sanctions
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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday it could take months for new UN sanctions against Iran, as she prepared for talks in Argentina and Brazil about the perceived Iranian nuclear threat.
Speaking on the plane to Buenos Aires, the chief US diplomat appeared to back away from her contention before the US Senate last week that a new resolution could be obtained in the "next 30 to 60 days."
"We are moving expeditiously and thoroughly in the Security Council. I can't give you an exact date, but I would assume sometime in the next several months," she said before landing in the Argentine capital.
Meanwhile, a senior US diplomat in Washington dismissed Iranian reports that a Sunni militant, arrested in Iran, said his group Jundallah had received American help.
"I'm highly skeptical of those claims," the diplomatic source said, asking to remain anonymous, referring to the claims said to be made by Abdolmalek Rigi.
"There was a report over the weekend that he was moving to meet Richard Holbrooke somewhere, that's utter nonsense," the source added.
Clinton told reporters traveling with her that she expected to discuss Iran with for talks with Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, praising her stand on Iran.
"The Argentines have a very clear understanding of the dangers of the proliferation of nuclear weapons," Clinton said.
"And they have been a very strong proponent in the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) against the proliferation, and have voted such even with respect to Iran. So I do expect it to come up," Clinton said.
Clinton had initially intended to meet Kirchner on the sidelines of the inauguration in Montevideo of Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, but she added Buenos Aires to her six-country Latin America tour on Sunday.
With Saturday's mammoth quake in Chile throwing her schedule into flux, Clinton decided to drop plans to spend Monday night in the Chilean capital Santiago and instead make a brief solidarity visit Tuesday to Santiago airport.
Clinton is due to travel late Tuesday to Brasilia for talks about Iran and other subjects Wednesday with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Foreign Minister Celso Amorim.
Brazil -- a current voting member on the 15ong council but not one of the five permanent veto-wielding members -- has been reluctant to join the US push for sanctions.
She will discuss with Lula "the fact that the United States recognizes Iran has the right to peaceful civil nuclear power but does not under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty have the right to nuclear weapons.
"It is violating its international obligations, it has been found to be in violation of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the UN Security Council," she said.
"These are not findings by the United States. These are findings by the international community," she said.
"It is going to be the topic of the UN Security Council so I want to be sure he has the same understanding that we do as to how this matter is going to unfold," Clinton said.
Clinton's visit to Brazil was preceded Friday by William Burns, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, who leads US consultations among the P5-plus-1 -- the club dealing with efforts to halt Iran's contested nuclear program.
The group is made up of the five permanent veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France -- plus Germany.
Lula at a regional summit in Mexico last week warned that the global community, in its quest for peace, should avoid isolating Iran over its controversial nuclear program.
"Peace in the world does not mean isolating someone," said Lula, whose country has its own nuclear energy program.
Brazil's Senate foreign relations committee on Thursday called Amorim to testify about the country's policy towards Iran.
Clinton's tour follows one to the oil-rich Gulf less than two weeks ago when she asked Saudi Arabia, the biggest oil exporter to China, to use its influence to persuade Beijing to join the drive for sanctions against Iran.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hiQjABaVFkUQC1-FDU-YPTmjd5Jw
3. Iran Moves Enriched Uranium Stock Back Underground
Mark Heinrich and Sylvia Westall
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Iran has moved a stock of enriched uranium back underground after drawing what it needed to refine the material up to 20 percent purity, Tehran's envoy to the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Monday.
He dismissed media speculation that Iran had placed a large amount of the material in a visible spot above ground to provoke an Israeli air strike that would give Iran a pretext to expel U.N. inspectors and develop atom bombs for security reasons.
Iran has said its move to feed low-enriched uranium (LEU) into centrifuges for higher-scale refinement is to make fuel for a medical isotope reactor.
Western officials and U.N. inspectors doubt Iran's explanation since it lacks the technical capacity to convert higher-enriched uranium into fuel rods for the reactor, whose Argentine-provided fuel stock is running out.
They fear Iran wants to advance along the road to producing high-enriched -- 90 percent purity -- uranium suitable for the fissile core of an atomic bomb, if it chose later to do so.
Diplomats also questioned why Iran had moved 94 percent -- 1.95 tonnes of its LEU reserve out of its main, subterranean enrichment plant at Natanz, a much larger amount than would be needed to produce fuel for the reactor in the medium term.
"(This) was merely for producing material for the Iran research reactor. That is why that container is (now) back to its original location," Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, told reporters.
A senior diplomat close to the IAEA confirmed the container had been returned underground but could not immediately say how much LEU had been used for higher-scale enrichment.
U.S. media have speculated that, in moving above ground an LEU stockpile Iranian officials have called a strategic asset, Iran thought of goading adversaries such as Israel, which views the Iranian nuclear programme as an existential threat.
"For your information, (we) just moved the capsule because technically they needed it and they have put it back. We used the material which we needed for the Tehran Research Reactor," Soltanieh said during a break in an IAEA governors meeting.
Diplomats there discounted the notion of political reasons for Iran having moved much of its LEU stockpile above ground.
"A more likely reason was that Iran needed a large container to provide a steady feed with sufficient pressure for 20 percent enrichment," said one senior diplomat close to the IAEA.
"In any case, this container can be moved back and forth between the pilot and main Natanz facilities in a half hour."
U.N. nuclear agency chief Yukiya Amano said a reactor fuel supply offer brokered by his predecessor Mohamed ElBaradei with Russia, France and the United States, was still open to Iran. Tehran has rejected a key clause requiring it to ship 70 percent of its LEU abroad.
"(It) is the balanced and realistic proposal. That's why I support it and keep it on the table," said Amano."
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKLDE6202AD20100301
4. Israel Shows China Evidence of Iran Bomb Program
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An Israeli delegation that traveled to Beijing last week presented detailed intelligence on Iran's nuclear program in an attempt to persuade China that Tehran seeks atomic weapons, a senior diplomatic source told Haaretz.
The group, led by Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon and central bank chief Stanley Fischer, tried to persuade China to support sanctions on Iran by offering "the full intelligence picture available to Israel," the diplomat said.
The Israeli officials also told the Chinese that a nuclear Iran would push up oil prices - China depends on Iran for a significant proportion of its imported oil.
Israel is trying to recruit China's support for a fourth round of sanctions on Iran, and the UN Security Council is due to vote on the issue in the coming months. At the very least, Israel wants to ensure that China does not oppose the sanctions when they come to vote.
Israel also wants to make sure that China supports the report on Iran published by the new head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano. Unlike his predecessor Mohamed ElBaradei, Amano discussed in his report the possibility that Iran might secretively be developing nuclear weapons. The IAEA's annual conference is set to open in Vienna today.
The diplomat told Haaretz that the delegation's main aim was to present the Chinese with evidence that Iran is developing nuclear arms. China's official position is that Iran has a right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful, civilian purposes and that there is no proof Iran has a military nuclear program.
Most detailed overview in years
"The Chinese were given the full intelligence picture Israel has about the Iranian nuclear program, which clearly shows Iran is developing nuclear weapons," the source said.
"The delegation also stressed how concerned Israel was, and that all options must remain on the table," the source added.
The delegation that set out for Beijing in coordination with the U.S. administration also included senior officials in the Foreign Ministry, the National Security Council and the defense establishment.
It met with a number of Chinese officials, the most senior being State Councilor Dai Bingguo.
According to the source, the Israelis spent two hours presenting the Chinese with an overview of the intelligence information Israel has on Iran's nuclear program. This was the most detailed overview given by Israel to China in more than three years, since prime minister Ehud Olmert's visit in January 2007.
The Israeli delegation left with a positive feeling, the source said, with the Chinese saying they would seriously consider the information they received.
Talks were conducted in a friendly atmosphere, with Beijing stressing the importance of Chinese-Israeli relations and its desire to develop ties further, the source said.
Fischer detailed the implications a nuclear Iran would have for the world economy, stressing a dramatic rise in oil prices. Alternatives to importing oil from Iran were also discussed.
Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia and the United States proposed to China that it buy oil from Arab states at much lower prices than oil imported from Iran.
China is also concerned about possible sanctions because of its deals with Iran on developing railroads, tunnels and oil fields. These contracts are expected to be highly profitable, so the Chinese fear that sanctions would put them at risk.
Available at: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1153047.html
5. U.N. Report on Possible Iran Bomb Work "Factual" - Amano
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The new U.N. nuclear agency chief said on Monday his report Iran could be trying to develop a nuclear-armed missile was factual and impartial, rejecting Iranian suggestions he was biased towards Western powers.
Yukiya Amano spelled out a "clear" approach to Iran's nuclear activity after what diplomats said was the reluctance of his predecessor Mohamed ElBaradei to confront Iran due to his scepticism about the veracity of Western intelligence on Tehran.
Amano's blunter line on Iran could be significant if it increases momentum towards harsher United Nations sanctions on Iran. Six world powers have begun deliberations on more sanctions at U.N. Security Council level in New York.
In an address to the U.N. agency's board of governors and a news conference, Amano did not repeat a politically sensitive reference in a Feb. 18 report on Iran about "the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile".
Diplomats said Amano's reticence on Monday may have been a gesture to dampen tensions within the IAEA's governing body after a developing nation bloc, to which Iran belongs, suggested his report was not sufficiently balanced.
"In my view, this report is factual and absolutely impartial. That is the essence ... it took stock of the whole picture. I wanted the report to be clear, straightforward, easy to read and understand," Amano told reporters.
He said intelligence information that hardened the IAEA's disquiet about possible nuclear weapons-relevant activity in Iran was collected from multiple sources and was consistent in detail, timeline, and Iranian officials and agencies cited.
"We have an integrated team of experts, we have experience. And the information is extensive. We cross-check it. After this process, we are saying that altogether it raises concern."
"CHOSE OUR WORDS CAREFULLY"
Asked to address Iranian accusations of bias, he said: "My report does not say that Iran (indisputably) has or had a nuclear weapons programme. I want to make that clear. We have chosen our words carefully," Amano said.
He said it was urgent for Iran to dispel suspicions by suspending nuclear fuel production, allowing unfettered U.N. inspections and opening up to IAEA investigators.
Iranian officials have portrayed Amano as lacking experience, competence and independence from Western powers, something IAEA officials and Western diplomats strongly deny.
Iran denies ever seeking nuclear bomb capability, saying its uranium enrichment drive is only for peaceful energy purposes.
Iran increased disquiet in the IAEA about its behaviour last month by, according to Amano's report, starting enriching uranium to higher, 20 percent purity before inspectors could get to the scene and enhance surveillance methods.
Iran's move heightened suspicions that its end game is a stockpile of bomb-grade uranium enriched to 90 percent.
A senior diplomat close to the IAEA said safeguards against illicit escalation of enrichment beyond civilian uses remained weak and the agency was pressing Iran to allow snap inspections, "within minutes of notice", at the 20 percent production site.
Available at: http://in.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idINIndia-46561620100301?rpc=401&feedType=RSS&feedName=worldNews&rpc=401
6. Iran Says Can Cut Energy to Europe, Hit Enemies
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Iran could make European countries suffer by cutting off energy supplies and can target any adversary with its missiles, a senior Iranian military official said on Sunday.
Iran is locked in dispute with the United States and its allies over its nuclear energy programme which Western countries fear is aimed at allowing Iran the chance to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran says it is only interested in electricity.
The International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) governing board meets in Vienna next week to discuss Iran while world powers are deliberating new sanctions on Iran at the level of the U.N. Security Council.
Iran is one of the world's biggest oil and gas exporters but its economy is suffering amid the global financial crisis and international ostracism over the nuclear dispute.
"Iran is standing on 50 percent of the world's energy and should it so decide Europe will have to spend the winter in cold," Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards, said in a meeting with war veterans and volunteers in Kerman, according to Fars news agency.
"Our missiles are now able to target any spot in which the conspirators are in, and the country is making advances in all fields," he said.
Iran has tested a number of missiles in recent years that could be used in any war with its arch enemy Israel. Analysts say Israel could try a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
Some European countries have faced difficulties from reliance on gas supplies from Russia, but Iran has struggled to find the cash and technology to develop its energy sector as sanctions and political pressure have kept foreign firms away.
Israel lobbied Washington last week for sanctions against Iran, which imports 40 percent of its gasoline from foreign refineries.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKKAL85419220100228
7. Iran Urges UN Nuclear Agency to Retain Independence
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The Leader of the Islamic Revolution warned Sunday that the UN nuclear watchdog would lose its legitimacy if it folds under pressures exerted by the United States over Iran's nuclear program.
In a meeting with Iran's foreign minister, ambassadors and senior officials, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said Iran had declared from the beginning that the aim of its nuclear work was to develop the technology for civilian purposes, including energy generation.
The West has accused Tehran of seeking nuclear weapons in its pursuit. The allegation has yet to be validated by the UN nuclear watchdog, whose inspectors are monitoring Iranian nuclear facilities extensively.
"Propaganda and furor stemming from the West, including the United States, Britain as well as the Zionists, on [Iran's nuclear program] is absolutely bogus, and they know they are lying, and their opposition will not be in their favor," Ayatollah Khamenei said.
Despite all their efforts, he said, Iran has made significant progress in its nuclear work and will continue its path to the point it deems necessary.
The Leader went on to criticize the recent direction taken by the UN nuclear body about Iran and said, "Some attempts and reports by the [International Atomic Energy] Agency proves that this international body is not acting independently."
"The IAEA should not be under the pressure of the United States and some other countries since such unilateral moves will break trust in the agency and the United Nations," Ayatollah Khamenei said. "It will also damage the reputation of such international bodies."
The Leader also touched upon Iran's approach towards global politics and said that the "anti-hegemony policy" is unique to the Islamic Republic.
"There are two sides in the hegemonic system; one is trying to control others and the other is controlled by the hegemonic power," he said. "However, the Islamic Republic of Iran said from the beginning that it would not be dominant nor would it accept submission."
The Leader stressed that unlike some revolutions the popular movement of the Iranians had not witnessed a decline since the starting days of the Islamic Revolutions.
“Which country do you know of that after 31 years, the participation of the people in its Revolution anniversary [ceremonies], not only does not decline but also sees a sharp increase?”
"The power and influence of diplomacy is no less than the power of military, propaganda and money, it is even greater in many instances."
"Therefore, in order to implement the anti-hegemony policy, one must exercise a robust and practical diplomacy that is based on logic, reason and self-confidence."
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=119704§ionid=351020101
8. New U.N. Watchdog Head Faces Rising Tension with Iran
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The U.N. atomic watchdog's new chief will present a tougher approach to Iran at a meeting of member states starting on Monday where clashes loom over his suggestion Tehran may be trying to design a nuclear weapon.
Iran was likely to argue Yukiya Amano lacks competence and independence from Western powers, who want to impose harsher sanctions on Tehran, as tensions grow over its escalation of nuclear fuel enrichment and suspicions of illicit bomb research.
Amano, who took over from Mohamed ElBaradei in December, was seen distilling the tougher line contained in his February 18 report on Iran when he opens a week-long meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) governing board.
"The report is clearer and harsher in tone than those from ElBaradei. He will give a summary in the same tone as the report, no more, no less," said a European diplomat who like others asked for anonymity due to political sensitivities.
Amano's approach is important because the discussion at the 35-nation board in Vienna is expected to feed into deliberations on slapping harsher sanctions on Iran taking place among the six world powers at the level of the U.N. Security Council.
Some diplomats said Iran might try an unusual personal attack on Amano, suggesting the veteran Japanese diplomat is a lackey of the West, to deflect attention from his report's findings and try to rally developing nations behind it.
"(Iran) wanted to kick him as soon as the report was published. They will try and focus on the personal, not the substantial," said another European diplomat said.
Iran's foreign minister has already criticized Amano, particularly his suggestion that the Islamic Republic may be working on developing a nuclear-armed missile now, rather than having done so only in the past.
"Mr Amano is new to the job and clearly has a long way to go before he can reach the experience held by Mohammed ElBaradei," Manouchehr Mottaki told Iranian broadcaster Al Alam last week.
"The report was Amano's first and, like many other first reports, it was seriously flawed."
Western diplomats have praised the new director-general for what they see as his matter-of-fact treatment of the IAEA probe into "possible military dimensions" to Iran's nuclear activity.
Amano omitted Iran's repeated flat denials and denunciations of "forged" information and did not flag that the intelligence was not fully authenticated, as ElBaradei's reports often did.
"The Iran report shows what the 'Amano effect' means in practical terms: an IAEA staff unburdened and unleashed to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth," a senior Western diplomat said.
IAEA governors were not expected to rebuke Iran in a resolution as they did at their last meeting in November, when Iran was censured for hiding a uranium enrichment site.
But Western nations were likely to condemn it over an IAEA complaint that Iran had begun feeding low-enriched uranium (LEU) into centrifuges for higher refinement before inspectors could get to the scene at its Natanz pilot enrichment facility.
Iran said it started higher enrichment because it was frustrated at the collapse of an IAEA-backed plan for big powers to provide it with fuel rods for nuclear medicine made from uranium refined up to 20 percent purity.
Some diplomats also questioned why Iran had set aside the great bulk of its LEU stockpile for higher-scale enrichment when it lacks the technology to eventually convert it into fuel rods for the Tehran medical research reactor.
Iran's enrichment escalation has unnerved the West since advancing from 20 percent to the bomb-grade level of 90 percent purity would need only a few months, much faster than reaching the initial 3.5 percent stage suitable for power plants.
Iran has also told the IAEA it is building a production line at its uranium conversion plant in Isfahan to turn powder derived from LEU into uranium metal, raising concerns because this material has both weapons and civilian energy applications.
IAEA governors will also assess a separate Amano report voicing suspicion that Syria engaged in covert nuclear work at a desert site bombed by Israel in 2007 because uranium particles were found there by U.N. inspectors in June the following year. Syria has rebuffed IAEA requests for follow-up investigation.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE61R12E20100228
9. Top Israeli Official: A Nuclear Iran Would Endanger World Stability
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Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Friday that Iran's nuclear program poses a danger that extends beyond Israel.
"Iran is not just a challenge for Israel. I believe it is a challenge for the whole world," Barak said in a speech in Washington. "I can hardly think of a stable world order with a nuclear Iran."
Barak said he doubts that Iran is "crazy" enough -- he used the Yiddish word "meshugah" -- to launch a nuclear attack against Israel, but warned the existence of a nuclear-armed Iran could endanger the region, disrupt oil supplies and empower Iran's terrorist allies.
"I don't think the Iranians, even if they got the bomb, are going to drop it in the neighborhood," Barak said. "They fully understand what might follow -- they are radical but not total 'meshugah.' They have a quite sophisticated decision-making process and they understand realities."
Iran maintains it is interested in nuclear development only for power-generation and other civilian uses. But Barak said all countries must reject what he called "the verbal gymnastics" Iran uses to justify its nuclear research.
"It means they are not just trying to create a Manhattan-project-like crude nuclear device," he said. "They are trying to jump directly into the second or second-and-a-half generation of nuclear warheads that could be installed on top of ground-to-ground missiles with ranges that will cover not just Israel, but Moscow or Paris."
He said Israel supports diplomatic efforts to pressure Iran to change course.
After his speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Barak met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department. The United States is working to rally international support for more stringent economic sanctions against Iran.
"Iran is not living up to its responsibilities and we are working with our partners in the international community to increase pressure on Iran to change course," Clinton said in a photo-taking session with Barak.
On efforts to revive stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Barak said most Israelis are prepared to do what is needed.
"There is a strong, silent majority in Israel which is ready to make tough, painful decisions to reach peace once they feel there is readiness on the other side and we are not having this tango alone," Barak said in his speech.
He insisted that Israel will seek peace and protect its security.
"We have to stand firm on our two feet, open-eyed, without a drop of self-delusion about the realities of our neighborhood, but having one hand, preferably the left hand, looking for any window, turning every stone in order to find opportunities for peace, while the other hand, the right one, will be pointing a finger, very close to the trigger, ready to pull it when it is ultimately a necessity," Barak said.
Available at: http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/02/26/israel.iran.nuclear/index.html
10. US Steps Up Diplomatic Pressure on Russia Over Iran Sanctions
Adrian Blomfield and Andrew Osborn
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Amid fears that Moscow remains intent on weakening a planned Security Council resolution punishing Tehran for its nuclear programme, western diplomats are seeking to convince Russia to support much more robust measures.
They hope the West's case for robust action will be strengthened on Monday when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear watchdog, meets in Vienna to discuss a damning new report on Iran's atomic intentions.
According to the report, written by Yukiya Amano, the IAEA's tough-talking new chairman, Iran may be hiding "undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile".
The agency's findings are likely to pave the way for a Security Council resolution proposing a fourth round of sanctions on Iran.
Russia, along with China, ensured that the three previous rounds were considerably watered down. But in recent weeks, Moscow's patience with its long-standing ally appears to have evaporated and Russian officials have grudgingly talked of their support for some kind of sanctions.
Vladimir Chizhov, Russia's envoy to the European Union, conceded that dialogue with Iran was no longer working. "This prompts Moscow to think about options for sanctions."
Even so, diplomats privately say they expect Russia's cooperation to be, at best, limited.
In order to ratchet up the pressure on Iran's leadership, the United States, Britain, France and Israel are understood to back sanctions that would target Iran's central bank and financial sector, its main shipping and transportation companies and assets controlled by the country's powerful Revolutionary Guard.
But Russia favours a much more limited scope to sanctions, insisting that they should be narrowly targeted on individuals and companies directly involved in Iran's nuclear programme.
Diplomats concede that persuading Russia to change its position will be tough.
"Anything to do with proliferation we estimate the Russians will be cooperative," one said. "But when it comes to energy or arms, a whole different set of considerations comes into play."
Russia and China, both veto-wielding members of the Security Council, benefitted commercially from the previous rounds of sanctions. Russia sold Iran arms, China signed valuable energy deals and neither will surrender lucrative contracts easily.
Yet Western officials are still confident that they can win Russia over. Diplomats have made a number of discreet missions to Moscow to make power-point demonstrations, a source said.
Seeking to undermine those efforts, Iran on Sunday presented Russia with two rare Persian leopards -- a gift personally solicited by Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister.
Persuading China, however, could well be a mission to far, according to one diplomatic source: "It's not very encouraging," he said. "We don't have much leverage."
Worryingly for the West, the number of sanctions naysayers seems to be growing.
This week, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, will visit Brazil in an attempt to persuade its president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, to end his increasingly cosy relationship with Iran.
Brazil is also pursuing commercial deals that the West says could allow Iranian banks that fund Tehran's nuclear programme to avoid sanctions.
Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/7338680/US-steps-up-diplomatic-pressure-on-Russia-over-Iran-sanctions.html
11. Lavrov: No Proof Iran Working on Nuclear Weapons
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Russia's foreign minister says Moscow will not agree to harsh sanctions against Iran, reasoning that there is nothing to prove Tehran is working on nuclear weapons.
"There is no evidence that Iran has made a decision to produce nuclear weapons," Sergei Lavrov said in a recent interview with RIA Novosti.
Lavrov went on to add hat he did not believe that sanctions were an effective course to take.
"If we go with the sanctions, we'll not go beyond the goal of our purpose of defending the nonproliferation regime.
"We don't want the nonproliferation regime to be used for ... strangling Iran, or taking some steps to deteriorate the situation [and] the living standards of people in Iran," he said clarifing that Moscow did not plan to agree to embargoes that could seriously damage Iran's economy.
Russia's foreign minister, however, said Tehran had to clarify several key issues on its nuclear program to avoid fresh sanctions from world powers.
"I cannot rule out that the UN Security Council will have to consider the situation once again," he said.
Lavrov did urge the Islamic Republic to answer all the questions posed by the International Atomic Energy Agency, but he acknowledged Iran's right to carry out nuclear activities.
He told the reporters that as it said in its latest report, the International Atomic Energy Agency continued to monitor Iran's nuclear activities.
"Of course, the agency also reports traditionally that it cannot be 100% sure that Iran does not have some secret nuclear activities," Lavrov said, implying that the UN nuclear watchdog's latest report was not raising any new suspicions.
World powers, led by the US, accuse Tehran of pursuing military applications under the guise of a civilian nuclear program, despite the fact that IAEA inspectors stationed in Iran have been unable to substantiate their claim.
Last week, the new IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano issued his first report on Iran's nuclear program, once again verifying the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran.
Amano's report, however, did raise some concerns about "the possible existence… of past or current undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile."
While the US used that segment of the report to once again threaten Iran with sanctions, Tehran pointed out that the report raised no "new cause for concern", but simply addressed a series of past issues already examined former IAEA Chief Mohamed ElBaradei.
In an interview with Press TV, Iran's Ambassador to the IAEA Ali-Asghar Soltanieh said that he had asked the director general why he had included a reference to past issues regarding Tehran's nuclear program in his first report on Iran.
According Soltanieh, Amano had responded by acknowledging that his reference to the alleged studies was "absolutely nothing new" but simply an attempt to provide a background on all previous issues regarding Iran's nuclear program.
"There is nothing new. The alleged studies were forged… two or three times, Mr. ElBaradei officially announced that there is no authenticity to these materials. Therefore, the director general has already questioned the validity of these materials.
"Mr. Amano only tried to bring a full background on the issues that were discussed before for the reader to understand the background. Of course it unfortunately has created some misunderstandings," said Soltanieh.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=119597§ionid=351020104
North Korea vowed Tuesday to strengthen its nuclear deterrent and its means of delivery — an apparent reference to missiles — days after threatening rival South Korea and U.S. forces with attack if they conduct military exercises as planned next week.
The threat comes as the U.S. and other dialogue partners are pushing for the North's communist regime to rejoin disarmament talks it pulled out of last year in anger over international condemnation of a long-range rocket launch. Soon after, it conducted its second atomic test — a move that drew tighter U.N. sanctions.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday there will be no progress in denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula unless the U.S. removes its nuclear threat against the North.
The U.S. denies posing such a military threat to the North, although it retains about 28,500 troops in South Korea.
The North wants sanctions lifted and peace talks to formally resolve the 1950-53 Korean War — which ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. The U.S., South Korea and Japan have responded the North must first return to the disarmament talks and make progress on denuclearization.
"Should the U.S. persist in its unrealistic moves to stifle the (North) in disregard of its realistic proposal, this will only compel it to boost its nuclear deterrent and its delivery means," the KCNA dispatch said.
The North routinely issues threats about its nuclear deterrent, but it is the first time it has referred to how it would deliver a nuclear weapon.
The North is believed have enough weaponized plutonium for at least half a dozen atomic bombs, and has been developing a long-range missile designed to strike the U.S. Experts say, however, it has not mastered the technology required to mount a nuclear warhead onto the missile.
The statement comes ahead of annual U.S.-South Korean military drills starting in South Korea next Monday. Last week, the North threatened a "powerful" — even nuclear — attack if the drills go ahead.
The North says the exercises are preparation for an invasion, but the U.S. and South Korea say the maneuvers are purely defensive.
Despite that dispute, officials from the two Koreas held talks Tuesday on easing border crossings, communication and customs clearance for South Koreans who work at a joint industrial complex in the North.
The officials met for about 80 minutes at the complex in Kaesong, the South's Unification Ministry said, without giving any details of the meeting. The two sides will discuss their schedule for further talks on Tuesday afternoon, it said.
The Kaesong complex is the most tangible sign of cooperation on the divided peninsula. It has combined South Korean capital and know-how with cheap labor from cashapped North Korea, with about 110 South Korean factories employing 42,000 North Korean workers.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iURO8fOyWVOA0ytFlaAGuC9F7R9wD9E69GR80
2. South Korea Renews Offer of Incentives for Disarmament
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South Korea's president said Monday that he wants to achieve "genuine" reconciliation with North Korea through dialogue and renewed his offer of a package of incentives for the North's nuclear disarmament.
The North has recently reached out to Seoul and Washington following months of tension over its nuclear and missile program. A U.S. State Department spokesman said Friday that the North could rejoin international nuclear disarmament talks in coming weeks. "For genuine reconciliation and cooperation ... South and North Korea must resolve many pending issues through a dialogue," President Lee Myung-bak said in a nationally televised address marking Korea's 1919 uprising against Japanese colonial rule.
North Korea "must discuss with sincerity the 'grand bargain' deal that we have offered," Lee said.
Lee's "grand bargain" would provide the North with a set of political incentives and economic aid in exchange for the irreversible dismantling of its nuclear weapons program in a single step, rather than the step-by-step process pursued in the past. The single-step process is aimed at preventing North Korea from backtracking on its commitments after receiving the aid.
"North Korea must show its sincerity to the international community with an action," Lee said.
Later Monday, about 50 conservative activists staged an anti-Pyongyang rally in Seoul, chanting slogans like "Blow up North Korea's nuclear facilities!" and burning the North's national flags. There were no immediate reports of clashes or injuries.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters Friday that the United States was encouraged by signs that North Korea might return to international talks aimed at ending the North's nuclear program in return for aid. The countries participating in the talks are North Korea, the U.S., Russia, China, Japan and South Korea.
Her spokesman, P.J. Crowley, later said the talks could begin "in coming weeks or months."
North Korea quit the talks and conducted a second atomic test last year, inviting tighter U.N. sanctions. The regime has called for a lifting of the sanctions and peace talks formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War before it returns to the disarmament talks. The U.S., South Korea and Japan have responded the North must first return to the negotiations and produce progress.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iURO8fOyWVOA0ytFlaAGuC9F7R9wD9E5N9CO0
3. North Korea May Return to Talks in March or April
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North Korea may return to nuclear disarmament talks in March or April, Yonhap news agency said Sunday, citing an unnamed senior South Korean government official.
"We believe North Korea will come back to the six-party talks sooner or later, possibly in March or April, although we cannot predict the exact timing," the official was quoted by Yonhap telling a group of South Korean journalists in Washington on Saturday.
"Our judgement is based on circumstantial evidence surrounding recent contacts between North Korea and China."
China hosts the six-party talks and is the communist North's only major ally.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, after talks with her South Korean counterpart Yu Myung-Hwan in Washington, said Friday she was "encouraged by signs of progress" toward the resumption of the six-party process.
The talks -- which involve China, the two Koreas, the United States, Russia and Japan -- have been stalled since North Korea rejected them 10 months ago in protest at UN censure of its missile and nuclear tests.
A senior State Department official in Washington said the North may be compelled to return to talks to benefit from international aid after bungled economic reforms.
The North has demanded the lifting of UN sanctions and discussion of a peace treaty on the Korean peninsula before it returns to the negotiations.
But the United States, South Korea and Japan have said North Korea must return to the talks first and make substantial progress toward denuclearisation before other issues are discussed.
North Korea, which tested atomic weapons in October 2006 and May 2009, says it developed nuclear weaponry because of a US threat of aggression, and it must have a peace pact before it considers giving them up.
The 1950-1953 Korean War ended only in an armistice. Seoul officials suspect talk of a peace treaty is an excuse to delay action on the nuclear programme.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5j8siYlXK-qHOfjb5ai-pBHQ1BauQ
1. U.S. Denies Nuclear Deal, Power Plant to Pakistan
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The U.S. has told Pakistan that it will not get any atomic power plant or civilian nuclear deal, similar to the one it signed with India. "The United States is working closely with Pakistan to help meet its growing needs. Nuclear power is not currently part of our discussions," a senior official told PTI.
Pakistan was informed of the decision recently. The official, preferring anonymity, said the U.S. also told Pakistan that there was no way it could get a civilian nuclear deal similar to the one the U.S. signed with India. The India-U.S. civilian nuclear deal was India-specific, and there was no thinking on in the administration to create a template for it.
Moreover, given the past experience that the U.S. had with Pakistan on the nuclear proliferation issue and the episode of Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan allegedly transferring sensitive technologies abroad, both top American lawmakers and government officials had serious concerns about the safety of Pakistani nuclear weapons, he said.
Available at: http://www.hindu.com/2010/02/28/stories/2010022862451000.htm
2. Russian START Negotiators Going Home But To Return
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Russian arms control officials are leaving Geneva at the weekend for Moscow but negotiations with the United States on a START successor treaty are expected to resume in coming weeks, an official told Reuters on Friday.
The pause appeared to signal that high-level consultations in the capital are needed on final details of the pact to cut strategic nuclear weapons, analysts said.
It comes after the presidents of Russia and the United States agreed on Wednesday to urge their negotiators to speed up work and prepare for signing a new START deal, according to a Kremlin statement at the time.
"Our delegation will be leaving this weekend. I don't know the new date of negotiations, maybe on March 8th or 15th," an official at the Russian diplomatic mission told Reuters.
Russian officials would still attend a negotiating session scheduled for Saturday morning in the Swiss city before departing for Moscow, the official added.
There was no official confirmation of the break from the U.S. diplomatic mission in Geneva, where one American official said it had been under discussion by the two sides.
Negotiations were continuing as planned on Friday evening. "The teams are still here," the U.S. official told Reuters.
President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev have pledged to complete the pact to succeed the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expired last December.
They have agreed to cut deployed nuclear warheads to between 1,500 and 1,675 on each side.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said on Tuesday the United States believes an agreement is now clearly in sight.
"There are still some details to be worked out. We hope we can do that in coming days," he told a news briefing in Washington after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton phoned her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov to discuss the talks.
Analysts say a deal could boost strained ties between Washington and Moscow and emphasize their shared commitment to nuclear disarmament at a time when major powers are pressing Iran and North Korea to renounce their nuclear ambitions.
There has been a media blackout around the intense talks, which broke off for a few weeks for the Christmas and New Year holidays.
"The negotiators are closeted and practically living together," a Western diplomat in Geneva told Reuters this week.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE61P50T20100226?rpc=401&type=politicsNews?feedType=RSS&feedName=politicsNews&rpc=401
3. UN Urges Iraq to Ratify Atomic Inspection Protocol
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The Security Council on Friday urged Iraq to ratify an agreement requiring it to accept intrusive inspections by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, which dismantled a covert Iraqi atom bomb program in the 1990s.
The Security Council said it could consider lifting restrictions it imposed on Iraq's civilian nuclear activities after its 1990 invasion of neighboring Kuwait if Iraq ratified the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) so-called Additional Protocol, among other steps.
Iraq has already signed the IAEA Additional Protocol, submitted it to parliament for ratification and agreed to implement it provisionally until it enters into force.
The declaration, which was agreed to by all 15 Security Council members, also asked the Vienna-based IAEA to report to the council on Iraq's implementation of the protocol.
Baghdad, a major oil exporter, has said it wants a civilian nuclear program to generate electricity.
Its neighbor Iran is under U.N. sanctions for defying Security Council demands that it halt uranium enrichment, a nuclear fuel program that began during Iran's 1980-1988 war with Iraq.
The more intrusive inspection regime aimed at smoking out clandestine nuclear activities stemmed from the IAEA's discovery in 1991 of a clandestine nuclear weapons program in Iraq.
That regime is known as the Additional Protocol and IAEA officials have long urged nations around the world to sign, ratify and implement it.
The United States only ratified the protocol last year, 11 year after signing it.
Before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the United States and Britain alleged that Iraq had revived its weapons of mass destruction programs. But U.N. inspectors, who returned to Iraq in late 2002 and remained for several months, found no evidence to support the charges.
The U.S.-British allegations, which were based on faulty intelligence, are now known to have been false.
U.N. weapons inspectors had spent seven years uncovering and dismantling Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs after a U.S.-led military campaign drove then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's forces out of Kuwait in 1991.
Also in its declaration, the Security Council welcomed Iraq's accession to a global pact against the use of chemical weapons, arms that Hussein used against Iran during their bloody war and against Iraqi Kurds in northern Iraq.
It also praised Baghdad's plans to sign a treaty against the proliferation of ballistic missiles and its adoption of a pact banning nuclear tests.
The statement did not mention Iraq's long-standing request that the council annul other decisions from the early 1990s, including those requiring that Baghdad pay war reparation payments to Kuwait.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKN2614179420100226
1. Earthquake Prone Japan Sees Green in New Nuclear Power Plants
Christian Science Monitor
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Japan is pressing ahead with an expansion of nuclear power, despite public unease and vocal opposition from activists.
Poor in natural resources, the country has long dreamed of reducing its fossil fuel dependency through domestic nuclear power. Now it's casting nuclear energy as a key to the fight against global warming, an argument that critics reject.
Japan's debate closely mirrors those worldwide, as governments highlight nuclear power as an easier way to cut carbon emissions than boosting wind and solar power.
President Obama, for example, on Feb. 16 announced $8.3 billion in loan guarantees to build the first nuclear reactors in the United States in 30 years – the first of many, he promised.
Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has pledged to cut Japan's carbon emissions to 75 percent of 1990 levels by 2020, if other major economies set similar targets. His government recently backed a plan for low-interest loans for new nuclear reactors.
"If we want to do this 25 percent reduction, obviously we need more nuclear plants," says Shunsuke Kondo, chairman of Japan's Atomic Energy Commission.
But the public isn't entirely convinced. According to the Japanese cabinet's own poll last November, 54 percent say they feel anxious or uneasy about nuclear power, with the top concern being the risk of an accident. Forty-two percent said they feel "safe" about nuclear power.
Meanwhile, activists criticize Japan's nuclear program as dangerous, expensive, and impractical. One concern is Japan's earthquake-prone geology, which they cite in raising the specter of a quake-induced Chernobyl. Just on Saturday, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake hit off Japan's southern coast, shaking Okinawa and nearby islands and rupturing water pipes.
In recent months, activists have focused their ire on the government's introduction of "pluthermal" fuel in nuclear plants. The term refers to the use of mixed uranium-plutonium fuel known as MOX (mixed-oxide) fuel.
The government touts pluthermal as a way to reuse spent fuel, saying it's more efficient and produces less high-level radioactive waste than normal reactors. It first introduced MOX fuel at a nuclear plant last year. That drew weeks of protests from activists.
A second plant, at Ikata, near the port city of Matsuyama, is set to use MOX fuel in March. "MOX fuel is many times more dangerous than uranium fuel," says Makoto Kondo, a longtime opponent of the Ikata plant. "When it comes to blasts or accidents, far more devastating damage would occur with pluthermal reactors."
Officials acknowledge they must work harder to win public trust. But they insist that nuclear plants are safe.
Japan now gets about a third of its electric power from some 54 nuclear power plants. It hopes to build eight more by 2018, boost capacity at its existing plants, and upgrade more plants into pluthermal ones.
The Atomic Energy Commission's Mr. Kondo and other officials say using MOX fuel allows Japan to recycle its energy resources. Japan currently sends spent fuel to Europe, where it is reprocessed into MOX fuel and shipped back. "The simple reason for using plutonium is because we want to use our resources as best as we can," Kondo says, adding that MOX fuel has been used safely in Europe for years.
He says Japan's plants were built to withstand all but a "once in 10,000 year" earthquake. But he acknowledges that since Japan switched on its first reactors in the 1960s, three quakes have produced vibrations exceeding design assumptions. (Large safety margins in construction prevented any major accidents in those cases, he says.)
According to the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI), nearly a third of Japan's planned carbon reduction targets by 2020 will come from nuclear power, making it the biggest source of carbon-emission cuts after energy conservation (60 percent). In contrast, the government expects less than 6 percent of cuts to come from renewable energies.
"Nuclear power is one of the important sources of Hatoyama's target," says Katsuyuki Tada, a deputy director at METI.
For Japanese planners, the goal is to achieve a self-sufficient "nuclear cycle," with fast-breeder reactors sending spent fuel to Japan's own reprocessing plants, to be turned into MOX fuel.
But critics say it's a costly and risky pipe dream. The fast-breeder reactor program is technically daunting and has been plagued by delays; 2050 is the current target for commercial use.
Japan is set to begin reprocessing this year or next, after many delays, and hopes to produce MOX fuel by 2015.
There's also a proliferation and terrorism risk. MOX fuel is a tightly regulated material that could be used to make a "dirty bomb." It's transported by custom-built, armed ships with an elite police detail.
Disposal is also a question. Like many countries, Japan has yet to establish a permanent storage site for high-level radioactive waste, and "not in my backyard" sentiment runs high.
But as even the activists admit, those concerns don't look likely to dissuade the government.
Available at: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-South-Central/2010/0301/Earthquake-prone-Japan-sees-green-in-new-nuclear-power-plants
2. Gulf States Keen on Nuclear Tech for Power, Says Kuwait Expert
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A Kuwaiti-expert has said that the Arab Gulf states are keen on nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and would seek to exploit its advantages.
Nader al-Awadhi, vice-president, Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR), said nuclear energy would be useful in the generation of electric power and in the production of oil and gas.
Other applications of nuclear energy, he noted were in the fields of agriculture, especially in livestock production and in fighting diseases like cancer and also for heart ailments. Asked by Kuna agency, about the extent of co-operation between the IAEA and the Arab Gulf states, al-Awadhi said it involved three areas namely, preparatory plans for the use of nuclear energy, formulating legislation affecting the utilisation of nuclear energy and in establishing effective programmes to train Gulf citizens on harnessing the immense benefits.
Al-Awadhi, who acts as Kuwait’s liaison with the IAEA, said a workshop held last week in Vienna -- sponsored by the IAEA -- for experts in nuclear energy from Asia, Arab and Gulf countries, aimed at chalking up a framework for nuclear co-operation among IAEA members for a 10-year period. The workshop, he maintained, was particularly useful for Gulf states which have little knowledge about nuclear energy.
To drive home what was learned in the workshop the IAEA is organising another one in May, he said.
Available at: http://www.gulf-times.com/site/topics/article.asp?cu_no=2&item_no=345881&version=1&template_id=37&parent_id=17
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