Iran to Resume Nuclear Research
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
The latest act by Iran means that it can resume its nuclear research. Iranians removed seals at a uranium enrichment plant. Iran says its research is aimed at producing electricity, not bombs, but the move has set off protests in Europe that Iran is violating an international agreement to keep the materials closed off. These seals were removed as inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency looked on, and we reached the agency spokesman, Marc Vidricaire, in Vienna.
Mr. MARC VIDRICAIRE (International Atomic Energy Agency): The seals were put there on materials that Iran was using for research and development of its enrichment facility. They're exactly seals like you have, you--wires that you press, so it means that the material can be removed. You cannot touch the materials without breaking the seals.
INSKEEP: Does this mean that Iran can now resume uranium enrichment at its own timetable?
Mr. VIDRICAIRE: Exactly. It was not enriching uranium yet. It was in the process of building its capacity to do so.
INSKEEP: And this happens at a time when Western nations had been hoping to persuade the Iranians to give up uranium enrichment permanently. Is this a major step backward?
Mr. VIDRICAIRE: In terms of the confidence-building measures that the Board of Governors has asked Iran to agree to, yes, it is a major step backward.
INSKEEP: Your agency will still have nuclear inspectors on the site, is that correct?
Mr. VIDRICAIRE: Oh, yes, very much so. I mean, this is really different than what we call the safeguarding of the nuclear facility. The safeguarding of the nuclear facility is still going on and Iran is meeting all its legal obligation.
INSKEEP: What options are now available to your agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency?
Mr. VIDRICAIRE: The decision has to be made by the Board of Governors, so the Board of Governors has the ability to report the issue to the Security Council if it so decides to do.
INSKEEP: That would be the most extreme measure that you could take, which is something that the United States has been pushing for already, that Iran be reported to the UN Security Council. Is that right?
Mr. VIDRICAIRE: That's right. The step means that there would be a concern with the nature of the Iranian nuclear program, because Iran has not fully met all its obligations under the NPT agreement.
INSKEEP: What is the initial reading that you're getting from your bosses there at the IAEA? Is this a serious enough step that Iran could end up being reported to the UN Security Council?
Mr. VIDRICAIRE: The director-general has indicated really his patience is getting very, very thin on two elements. First in the elements of the confidence-building measures. I mean, everyone was hoping that Iran would understand the concern of the international community, would continue to negotiate, so this is--of course this is not a step that is conducive to a long-term agreement. Also, the director-general is impatient with the lack of progress in the inspections, the investigation that the agency has been doing for the past three years regarding the past nuclear program of Iran. We still have issues that have not been answered and we were hoping that the Iranians would show more understanding and more readiness to cooperate with the agency, and we see a lack of commitment from Iran.
INSKEEP: What's your best understanding of what the Iranians are trying to accomplish here?
Mr. VIDRICAIRE: It is very difficult to say. I mean, they have been stating quite clearly that they do intend to have the full nuclear capacity, to be able to control the fuel cycle, to produce their own fuel. For what we can see, they're going exactly in that direction. They're going with a self-contained, self-sustaining nuclear program.
INSKEEP: We've been talking to Marc Vidricaire. He's a spokesperson for the International Atomic Energy Agency. He's in Vienna.
Thanks very much.
Mr. VIDRICAIRE: You're quite welcome.
INSKEEP: You're listening to NPR News.
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