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By Rebecca Johnson
Delegates from Iran walked out of a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on September 12, when the Agency's 35-member Board of Governors adopted a strongly worded resolution giving Iran 48 days - until October 31 - to provide complete information on its nuclear programme.1 Though a softer compromise than an earlier resolution circulated by the United States and Britain, which sought to have Iran declared in violation of its safeguards obligations under the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the resolution took a tough stand, calling on Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities and provide full information and unfettered access to enable the inspectors to resolve all outstanding concerns about its increasingly sophisticated nuclear programme. In the words of IAEA Director General Mohammed ElBaradei, the resolution sent "a very powerful message to Iran that they need to cooperate fully and immediately and to show complete transparency. ... We are going to adopt a very vigorous approach, a very intensive approach to try to complete our work..."2
Though many had at first wanted to distance themselves from the US onslaught on Tehran, suspicious of its timing so soon after the war on Iraq, the evidence contained in the sober language of the IAEA's latest report on the Iranian programme - distributed among delegates on August 26, and released to the public on September 123 - was viewed as compelling and, according to Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham, "deeply disturbing". Together with Australia and Japan, Canada co-sponsored the September 12 resolution. According to Graham, the evidence available to the Agency showed "that Iran's nuclear programme is a potentially serious threat to regional and international peace and stability..."4 Before walking out, Iran's Ambassador, Ali Akbar Salehi declared that Iran rejected the ultimatum and would have no part in the resolution or process related to it.5
Among the concerns raised in the resolution (see Appendix for full text) were:
It also expressed "grave concern that, more than one year after initial IAEA inquiries to Iran about undeclared activities, Tehran has still not enabled the IAEA to provide the assurances required by member states that all nuclear material in Iran is declared and submitted to Agency safeguards and that there are no undeclared nuclear activities in Iran..."
The resolution then called on Iran to provide complete cooperation and transparency; give a full declaration of all imported material and components relevant to the enrichment programme; grant unrestricted access, including environmental sampling; and resolve all outstanding questions, particularly with regard to its uranium enrichment activities. It also called on Iran "to suspend all further uranium enrichment-related activities, including the further introduction of nuclear material into Natanz, and, as a confidence-building measure, any reprocessing activities, pending provision by the Director General of the assurances required by member states, and pending satisfactory application of the provisions of the additional protocol."
The IAEA's report on "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran" was initiated after the Director General had stated on June 6, 2003 that "Iran had failed to meet its obligations under its Safeguards Agreement with respect to the reporting of nuclear material imported into Iran and the subsequent processing and use of the material, and the declaration of facilities and other locations where the material was stored and processed."6 The August 26 report was being considered as part of a scheduled five day meeting of the IAEA's Board of Governors (September 8-12), which addressed a range of issues relating to the NPT, nuclear industry and safeguards, including the situation in North Korea.
The IAEA report raised serious questions about Iran's uranium conversion and enrichment programmes, laser research and development and its heavy water reactor, construction of which was planned to start in 2004. Though it commended Iran for demonstrating "an increased degree of cooperation in relation to the amount and detail of information provided to the Agency and in allowing access requested by the Agency to additional locations and the taking of associated environmental samples", it noted that "information and access were at times slow in coming and incremental...and that... some of the information was in contrast to that previously provided by Iran." The report raised concerns about "a number of important outstanding issues, particularly with regard to Iran's enrichment programme, that require urgent resolution." It called for "continued and accelerated cooperation and full transparency on the part of Iran."7
Though welcoming ElBaradei's detailed report on Iran, summarised for the Board by the Director General on September 8, the United States' ambassador, Kenneth Brill, said the US found it "less effectively organized and less clear in some respects in stating the results of its analysis than was the June 6 report". In a strongly-worded statement on September 98, Brill accused Iran of patterns of deceit "which are inconsistent with both Iran's safeguards agreement and its professions of transparency", including "working in secret, going back into the 1980s, to develop sophisticated nuclear facilities; stalling, stonewalling, and on a number of occasions first providing the IAEA [with] false information and then changing its story when the original version was revealed to be inaccurate; [and] attempting to cover up traces of its activities to avoid detection by the Agency." Brill argued that "the record clearly shows that Iran's 'cooperation' with the Agency has at best been episodic and reluctant, and has frequently featured delay, denial of access, and misinformation. Forced admissions and grudging grants of delayed access are more accurately described as damage control than as genuine cooperation." Claiming that "the credibility of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime depends on the Agency [IAEA]", Brill argued that "the facts already established would fully justify an immediate finding of non-compliance by Iran with its safeguards obligations." In view of the "desire of other member states to give Iran a last chance to stop its evasions", the US backed away from insisting that the resolution should declare Iran to be in non-compliance or violation of the NPT, which would have necessitated action by the UN Security Council.
Iran has continued to insist that its nuclear programme is entirely for peaceful purposes, for the generation of electricity and eventually, through freeing up its oil reserves for export, of foreign currency. During the 2003 Preparatory Committee meeting of NPT states parties, for example, Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs, G. Ali Khoshroo, had stated that "unlike some others, we consider the acquiring, development and use of nuclear weapons inhuman, immoral, illegal and against our basic principles."9
Responding to the adoption of the September 12 resolution by the IAEA Board, Ambassador Salehi told the press: "You can't impose deadlines on a sovereign country... We will have no choice but to have a deep review of our existing level and extent of engagement with the Agency vis-à-vis this resolution... The Western Group in the Board of Governors, in line with their political goals, have made illegitimate, illegal and impractical requests of Iran... Even if all the claims on Iran's programme's shortcomings are true, they cannot be resolved within the 45 days given to Iran... [We are dealing with] extremist countries [not wishing] to resolve the issue technically and legally. ... It is no secret that the current US administration, or at least its influential circle, entertains the idea of invasion of yet another territory, as they aim to re-engineer and reshape the entire Middle East. ... [Iran] is a fervent subscriber to the NPT, a loyal party to it and a staunch promoter of the Middle East as a nuclear-free zone..."10
In response to the ultimatum, some newspapers in Iran have begun calling for Iran to emulate North Korea and withdraw from the NPT. Though diplomats insist that this is not going to happen, they are making sure that the international community is aware of this media debate in Iran, using it to suggest that the moderates who support the NPT could find it hard to hold back the hostile forces if American and IAEA pressure does not let up.
1. IAEA Board of Governors Meeting, September 8-12, 2003. The 35 members of the Board of Governors for 2002-2003 are: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Iran, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Panama, Philippines, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States. For selected documentation, including statements by Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, US Representative Kenneth Brill, and reaction to the resolution on Iran, see the 'Disarmament Documentation' section of the website of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy,http://www.acronym.org.uk/docs/0309/doc09.htm. For comprehensive IAEA coverage of the issue, see the 'IAEA & Iran' page of the Agency website, http://www.iaea.org/worldatom/Press/Focus/IaeaIran/index.shtml.
2. IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, quoted in 'UN sets Iran nuclear deadline, draws Tehran anger', Reuters, September 12, 2003.
3. "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran", Report by the Director General, GOV/2003/63, August 26, 2003, http://www.iaea.org/worldatom/Documents/Board/2003/gov2003-69.pdf.
4. Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham, quoted in 'UN sets Iran nuclear deadline, draws Tehran anger', Reuters, September 12, 2003.
5. Ian Traynor, Dan de Luce and Ewen MacAskill, 'Iran's Nuclear Deadline: Ultimatum over US suspicion that Tehran is building bomb', The Guardian, September 13, 2003.
6. Introduction, "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran", Report by the Director General, GOV/2003/63, August 26, 2003.
8. Statement by Ambassador Kenneth Brill, US Permanent Representative to the IAEA, September 9; full text reproduced in US Says Iran Has Failed to Meet NPT Safeguards Obligations, US Department of State, http://usinfo.state.gov/usinfo/products/washfile.html, September 9.
9. G. Ali Khoshroo, Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, General Debate, April 29, 2003.
10. 'UN sets Iran nuclear deadline, draws Tehran anger', Reuters, September 12; 'Iran given deadline to lay bare nuclear program', Washington Post, September 13; 'Iran reacts with anger, defiance to IAEA nuclear deadline', Agence France Presse, September 13; 'US gives Iran nuclear caution', BBC News Online, September 13.
'Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreements in the Islamic Republic of Iran', GOV/2003.69, September 12; resolution adopted without a vote.
The Board of Governors,
(a) Recalling the Director General's report of 6 June 2003 (GOV/2003/40), which expressed concern over failures by the Islamic Republic of Iran to report material, facilities and activities as it was obliged to do pursuant to its safeguards agreement, and noted that the Secretariat continues to investigate a number of unresolved issues,
(b) Recalling also recent statements by Iranian authorities recommitting Iran to full NPT and IAEA safeguards compliance and renouncing Iranian interest in nuclear weapons,
(c) Acknowledging Iran's decision to start negotiations for the conclusion of an additional protocol, but noting it does not meet the Board's 19 June request that Iran promptly and unconditionally sign and implement such a Protocol,
(d) Noting with appreciation the Director General's report of 26 August 2003 (GOV/2003/63) on the implementation of safeguards in Iran, and acknowledging that as a result of intensive inspection activities in Iran by the Agency since February the Agency now has a better, although still incomplete, understanding of Iran's nuclear programme,
(e) Commending the Secretariat for its continuing efforts to resolve all outstanding safeguards issues and sharing the view of the Director General that much essential work remains to be completed urgently to enable the Agency to draw conclusions on the programme,
(f) Noting the interim nature of the report of the Director General and calling on Iran to further enhance cooperation and provide full transparency to allow the Agency to fully understand and verify all aspects of Iran's nuclear programme, including the full history of its enrichment programme,
(g) Concerned by the statement of the Director General that information and access were at times slow in coming and incremental, that some of the information was in contrast to that previously provided by them, and that there remain a number of important outstanding issues that require urgent resolution,
(h) Noting with concern:
(i) Expressing grave concern that, more than one year after initial IAEA inquiries to Iran about undeclared activities, Iran has still not enabled the IAEA to provide the assurances required by member states that all nuclear material in Iran is declared and submitted to Agency safeguards and that there are no undeclared nuclear activities in Iran,
(j) Mindful of Iran's heavy responsibility to the international community regarding the transparency of its extensive nuclear activities,
(k) Recognising the basic and inalienable right of all member states to develop atomic energy for peaceful purposes,
(l) Stressing the need for effective safeguards in order to prevent the use of nuclear material for prohibited purposes in contravention of safeguards agreements, and underlining the vital importance of effective safeguards for facilitating cooperation in the field of peaceful uses of nuclear energy,
1. Calls on Iran to provide accelerated cooperation and full transparency to allow the Agency to provide at an early date the assurances required by member states;
2. Calls on Iran to ensure there are no further failures to report material, facilities and activities that Iran is obliged to report pursuant to its safeguards agreement;
3. Reiterates the Board's statement in June 2003 encouraging Iran not to introduce nuclear material into its pilot enrichment cascade in Natanz, and in this context calls on Iran to suspend all further uranium enrichment-related activities, including the further introduction of nuclear material into Natanz, and, as a confidence-building measure, any reprocessing activities, pending provision by the Director General of the assurances required by member states, and pending satisfactory application of the provisions of the additional protocol;
4. Decides it is essential and urgent in order to ensure IAEA verification of non-diversion of nuclear material that Iran remedy all failures identified by the Agency and cooperate fully with the Agency to ensure verification of compliance with Iran's safeguards agreement by taking all necessary actions by the end of October 2003, including:
(i) providing a full declaration of all imported material and components relevant to the enrichment programme, especially imported equipment and components stated to have been contaminated with high enriched uranium particles, and collaborating with the Agency in identifying the source and date of receipt of such imports and the locations where they have been stored and used in Iran;
(ii) granting unrestricted access, including environmental sampling, for the Agency to whatever locations the Agency deems necessary for the purposes of verification of the correctness and completeness of Iran's declarations;
(iii) resolving questions regarding the conclusion of Agency experts that process testing on gas centrifuges must have been conducted in order for Iran to develop its enrichment technology to its current extent;
(iv) providing complete information regarding the conduct of uranium conversion experiments;
(v) providing such other information and explanations, and taking such other steps as are deemed necessary by the Agency to resolve all outstanding issues involving nuclear materials and nuclear activities, including environmental sampling results;
5. Requests all third countries to cooperate closely and fully with the Agency in the clarification of open questions on the Iranian nuclear programme;
6. Requests Iran to work with the Secretariat to promptly and unconditionally sign, ratify and fully implement the additional protocol, and, as a confidence-building measure, henceforth to act in accordance with the additional protocol;
7. Requests the Director General to continue his efforts to implement the Agency's safeguards agreement with Iran, and to submit a report in November 2003, or earlier if appropriate, on the implementation of this resolution, enabling the Board to draw definite conclusions; and
8. Decides to remain seized of the matter.
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