IAEA Talks Continue on Iran's Nuclear Program

The International Atomic Energy Agency is holding more talks on Iran's suspected nuclear program. Western nations are seeking to refer the issue to the U.N. Security Council, where Tehran could face economic sanctions.

MICHELE NORRIS host:

Iran's nuclear program is the subject of more talks today at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. With US support, Britain, Germany and France, the so-called EU3, are preparing a resolution aimed at referring the matter to the United Nations Security Council. There Iran could face international sanctions. NPR's Corey Flintoff reports.

COREY FLINTOFF reporting:

The EU3 have been offering Iran peaceful nuclear technology and other incentives if Iran would forgo plans to produce its own nuclear fuel, a process that can also provide material for nuclear weapons. Diplomats were hoping that Iran's new President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might offer some concessions in a weekend speech at the UN. Instead, Ahmadinejad launched into a denunciation of the US and other major nuclear powers. Here he is speaking through an interpreter.

President MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD (Iran): (Through Translator) We are concerned that once certain powerful estates completely control nuclear energy resources and technology, they will deny access to other estates and thus deepen the divide between powerful countries and the rest of the international communities.

Secretary CONDOLEEZZA RICE (US State Department): I think there was broad disappointment at the Iranian speech and the fact that there seemed to be very little recognition that there are real concerns about what Iran has been doing over the last 15 years.

FLINTOFF: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters today that there's also broad agreement that Iran must not be allowed to gain nuclear weapons capability.

Sec. RICE: At some point in time, Iran is going to be referred to the Security Council.

FLINTOFF: The problem is that not all the key members of the International Atomic Energy Agency agree that Iran should face UN sanctions. Joseph Cirincione is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He says there are many reasons why nations would oppose taking the issue of Iran to the UN Security Council. For one thing, developing nations feel that they, like Iran, have a right to civilian nuclear programs. Some countries are concerned that there's no plan for dealing with Iran once it gets to the Security Council.

Mr. JOSEPH CIRINCIONE (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Senior Associate): And finally, there's a lot of money involved. A lot of countries are very interested in Iran's oil and natural gas, including India and China. So they don't want to do anything to ruin that business relationship.

FLINTOFF: Paul Leventhal of the Nuclear Control Institute says Iran has been emboldened by hesitation on the part of the nuclear inspectors.

Mr. PAUL LEVENTHAL (Nuclear Control Institute): The danger is that if this situation continues and Israel, in particular, observes that Iran is coming ever closer to nuclear weapons capability, then Israel might well be tempted to make a pre-emptive strike, as it did against Iraq in 1981.

FLINTOFF: The UN's chief nuclear inspector, Mohammand ElBaradei, said today that the international community should continue negotiating with Iran rather than referring it to the Security Council. He says the nuclear talks with North Korea have shown that negotiations can be fruitful. Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Washington.

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