UN reports that Iran is continuing nuclear program

Carly Nyst
31 August 2009

In a report released on Friday, the International Atomic Energy Agency claimed Iran was continuing its uranium enrichment program despite UN Security Council resolutions to the contrary. The UN's nuclear watchdog again criticised Iran's lack of cooperation with UN inspectors and failure to answer questions regarding alleged efforts to militarise the program. Such evidence, said IAEA director general Mohamed El Baradei, is "sufficiently comprehensive and detailed that it needs to be addressed by Iran with a view to removing the doubts which naturally arise about the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme."

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Iran recently made several concessions with regards to its uranium program, including allowing IAEA inspectors to view a heavy water plan under construction in Arak, and agreeing to improve monitoring at the Natanz plan. However, the IAEA's latest report continued to express concern about the nature of the program. According to the report, the number of centrifuges installed at the uranium enrichment plant had increased to approximately 8,000, considerably more than the 1,000 recorded by the IAEA in June 2009. However, the number of active centrifuges had declined, and the output of the plant remained steady at 2.77kg of low enriched uranium (LEU) a day. While LEU is generally used in nuclear power reactors rather than weapons, it is easily converted into weapons-grade high enriched uranium. The general consensus is that Iran now possesses sufficient enriched uranium to build a nuclear weapon.

The toD verdict: The report comes just weeks before an IAEA meeting in Vienna and a special UN Security Council meeting on the prevention of nuclear proliferation. It is expected that Iran will use these meetings to respond to an international package of incentives to suspend uranium enrichment, although Iran has previously consistently maintained that enrichment is it's sovereign right. The IAEA claimed it had ‘not been able to engage Iran in any substantive discussions about these outstanding issues for over a year.' Without any compromise, it can be expected that a new set of sanctions will be imposed by the UN Security Council, most likely focussing on Iran's energy sector.

As tensions mount in the lead up to the Security Council meeting, the International Atomic Energy Agency is under fire from Israel, which has it for withholding information about the Iranian nuclear capacity. In a statement issued on Sunday, the Israeli foreign ministry accused the IAEA report of failing to ‘reflect all the information known to the IAEA regarding Iran's efforts to continue to pursue its military program.' According to Israel, the UN report did not detail Iranian efforts to obtain nuclear weapons, or measures to conceal those efforts. The accusations prompted the IAEA to issue a statement in defence of its report. Agency spokesman Marc Vidricaire remarked that ‘regrettably, time and again unidentified sources feed the media and member states with misinformation or misinterpretation. This time around, there are articles claiming that the secretariat is hiding information, and that there are sharp disagreements among staff members involved about the contents of the report.' While Vidricaire vigorously denied the claims that the IAEA had failed to disclose information, such criticism may nevertheless damage the credibility of the agency in the lead up to next month's meetings, and act as an obstacle to obtaining consensus amongst Security Council members on the question of further sanctions.


Top US general to admit US Afghan strategy is failing

In a report to be released today, US General Stanley McChrystal is expected to admit that US military strategy in Afghanistan is not working and to call for its revision. It is anticipated that McChrystal, who is the current commander of the forces in Afghanistan, will liken the efforts of the US military in Afghanistan to that of a bull charging a matador. Copies of the report, which will be released today, have been sent to NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, as well as US President Barack Obama. BBC sources reported that McChrystal will reiterate that ‘the situation in Afghanistan is serious, but success is achievable and demands a revised implementation strategy, commitment and resolve, and increased unity of effort.'

Refugees return to Burma as fighting subsides

Some of the 37,000 refugees who fled to China recently after intense fighting in the northeastern  Burma, have begun to return. Thousands of refugees had taken shelter in Yunnan Province in southern China, after Burmese government troops upped attacks against ethnic Shan rebels. Fighting along the Chinese border last week resulted in the death of two people and left at least fifteen people injured, Chinese authorities reported.

Human Rights Watch reported that the Burmese army deployed seven army battalions to remove civilians from areas around Laikha and Mong Kerng townships, and troops had burned down more than 500 houses in 39 villages in the area. Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, called on the international community to recognise that in addition to the repression of the Burmese political opposition, and the persecution of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, ‘Burma's ethnic minorities are systematically marginalised and brutalised by the Burmese government and army.'

Fifteen police recruits die in suicide bombing in Swat Valley

A police training session in Pakistan's Swat Valley was brutally interrupted on Sunday when a suicide bomber struck a central police station, killing fifteen police recruits. The recently hired officers were in training to patrol local communities around Mingora in the Swat Valley. The suicide bomber was disguised as a police recruit and walked into the station, which was no longer an operational base after having been the target of repeated Taliban bombings over the past two years. Of the fifteen police recruits, thirteen were killed immediately, with two more dying while receiving medical treatment. Twenty more received serious injuries. This latest attack appears to undermine a recent statement by Pakistan's army that it is successfully restoring security to the area.

Meanwhile, another thirty bodies, suspected to be Taliban militants, have been discovered in the region, bringing the total number of corpses located in the area in recent weeks to more than 150.
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