Pressure builds on Iran, Israel N-programmes


Vienna : Iran and Israel found themselves under increasing pressure over their nuclear programmes at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Monday, as both countries came under the spotlight at a regular IAEA board meeting.

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While Israel’s leaders feel threatened by Iran’s nuclear programme, which they say is geared towards nuclear weapons, Iran frequently points out that Israel is the only nuclear-armed country in the region, albeit an undeclared one.

On Iran, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said: “I also need to mention that Iran is a special case because, among other things, of the existence of issues related to possible military dimensions to its nuclear programme.”

For that reason, he had written in his latest report that, as long as the country does not fully cooperate with IAEA inspectors, his agency could not confirm that all of Iran’s nuclear materials are being used for peaceful purposes.

Besides Amano’s frank language, Iran also faces pressure from the UN Security Council in New York. The body is in the process of drawing up a new set of sanctions aimed at pressuring Iran to halt its uranium enrichment and answer the IAEA’s questions.

World powers, including the US, are also worried about the fact that Iran has, since February, boosted its uranium enrichment capacity to a level of 20 percent, despite an international offer to have this work done in Russia and France.

“Any resolution will strengthen our determination for continuation of this work,” Iran’s IAEA envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh said, referring to possible UN punitive measures.

Israel was also set to come into the spotlight of an IAEA board meeting later this week, as Arab countries managed to have the Israel’s nuclear weapons programme included on the body’s agenda for the first time since 1991.

“Now it is time to focus on the real threat,” Soltanieh said.

Israel has come under increasing international pressure in past weeks. A conference to review the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) called on the country to sign the pact and place all its nuclear facilities under IAEA inspections.

Israel has never admitted it possesses nuclear weapons.

Soltanieh connected Israel’s nuclear programme with its fatal boarding of aid ships headed for Gaza last week by saying that “this sort of violation of international law, plus nuclear capability, is very dangerous for the security of the whole world.”

The US said Monday in Vienna that Israel should have been discussed later, when Amano is set to present a report on how to bring Israel closer to the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.