Core concerns spark Iran reaction
By a Special Correspondent
WASHINGTON - Iran has stuck to the core elements of the controversy over its
standoff with the West in delivering its riposte to United Nations sanctions,
banning two UN inspectors from visiting nuclear installations.
The retaliatory move against the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
reflected Tehran's anger over measures designed to tighten the screws on its
economy, diplomats and observers said on Monday, just as the US Congress was
putting the finishing touches to a draft of what Senate Banking Committee
chairman Chris Dodd and Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs
Committee, termed a ''powerful package'' of new sanctions. These come in the
wake of UN Security Council
Resolution 1929, the June 9 vote to extend curbs on Iran over its refusal to
suspend the enrichment of uranium.
The US and its allies claim Iran is trying to develop atomic weapons, which
were it able to build could be a match for Israel's nuclear strike power in the
Middle East and have the range to reach the Jewish state. Tehran - backed by
Brazil and Turkey - insists its nuclear program is peaceful. Tehran has called
resolution 1929 illegal and has threatened action to protect its interests.
Relations between Iran and the IAEA have become more strained since Japanese
diplomat Yukiya Amano took over as head of the agency in December, adopting a
tougher approach than his predecessor, Mohamed ElBaradei.
"This action [banning the inspectors from entering Iran] is in reality a
regulatory notice to Amano to be careful so that the agency's inspectors do not
violate the international entity's charter," Iran's state news agency IRNA
quoted Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki as saying on Tuesday. "Amano should
manage the agency professionally," he said.
Iran complained to the UN after an IAEA report issued at the end of last month
said Tehran was preparing extra equipment to enrich uranium, had stockpiled
nuclear material, and was failing to answer questions about possible military
dimensions to its nuclear work and to address concerns about undisclosed
Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Agency, alleged on Monday that
the two barred inspectors made an ''untruthful'' assessment of the Islamic
Republic's nuclear program, according to state media. Stressing Iran's
commitment to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which governs nuclear
issues, Salehi said the ban on unnamed UN personnel invoked its right under a
"safeguards agreement" with the nuclear watchdog.
"The International Atomic Energy Agency can confirm that on 10 June 2010 it
received a letter from Iran objecting to the designation of two IAEA safeguards
inspectors,'' the agency said in a June 21 press release on its website. "The
IAEA has full confidence in the professionalism and impartiality of the
inspectors concerned. The Agency confirms that its report on the implementation
of safeguards in Iran, issued on 31 May 2010, is fully accurate.''
The UN Security Council, in its fourth such resolution since 2006, voted last
month to extend curbs on Iran over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment.
Resolution 1929 called on countries and blocs of nations to expand their
sanctions regimes on Iranian organizations and individuals. The European Union
(EU) followed with new sanctions, and last week the US Treasury Department said
it would restrict economic contacts with three dozen additional individuals and
companies alleged to be helping Iran develop nuclear and missile programs and
evade international penalties, the Associated Press reported.
The effect of sanctions may be taken up on Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's
visit to Washington this week. Medvedev has criticized the US and the EU's
decisions by saying unilateral sanctions against Iran may inflame the current
situation and damage dialogue with Tehran.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also said it was "disappointed" with the
decisions, which "undermine the basis of dialogue and cooperation" on Iran,
Kremlin aide Sergei Prikhodko told reporters in Moscow.
A number of laws introduced in Germany to implement the resolution appeared to
ban the transportation of Russia's cargo via Germany to Iran, where Russia is
building the Bushehr nuclear power plant under IAEA supervision, he said.
"There have been no such cases from the US side so far, but we want to prevent
them and have some guarantees concerning the issue," Prikhodko said.
Pakistan said it would abide by any US sanctions on Iran, which US special
envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke warned at the weekend
could hit Pakistani companies involved in a US$7.6 billion Iran-Pakistan gas
"If the US imposes sanctions, they will have international implications and
Pakistan as a member of the international community will follow them," Prime
Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani was reported by Reuters as saying at a press
conference in southern Sindh province.
Holbrooke warned Islamabad against becoming too committed to the pipeline
project because of the expected sanctions' effects.
The US House of Representatives passed its Iran sanctions bill last October,
and the senate its bill in January, but Berman and Dodd said in May that
congress would wait until after the UN acted to ensure its measures were in
line with the Barack Obama administration's policy of complementing unilateral
actions against Iran with multilateral cooperation.
With Brazil and Turkey voting against UN sanctions on June 9, multilateral
cooperation is distinctly patchy. Those countries' bid to find a diplomatic
solution to end the nuclear standoff stumbled after it was shunned by the Obama
administration, even as in substance the plan they devised matched a fuel swap
proposal the US had backed last year. Their proposal, known as the Tehran
Declaration after they secured Iran's cooperation in the Iranian capital in
May, called for Iran's atomic agency to send its stockpiles of uranium to
Turkey - from where nuclear fuel would be processed and returned as rods for
making medical isotopes in the Iranian capital.
The plan has also failed to make headway at the IAEA as the US and its allies
push for sanctions.
The latest draft US sanctions on Iran focus on disrupting exports of gasoline
and other petroleum products to Iran and banning American banks from doing
business with foreign banks providing services to the Islamic Revolutionary
The legislation would add to existing sanctions by excluding from US markets
companies and other entities that are involved in selling Iran the refined
petroleum products such as gasoline and jet fuel that it relies on, even though
it is one of the world's largest exporters of crude oil. The draft US bill
would also impose new penalties on foreign companies, including insurance,
financing and shipping companies, which assist in developing Iran's energy
"A month ago we announced our intention to develop a powerful package of new
sanctions against Iran that would substantially augment ongoing multilateral
efforts by the UN Security Council and the European Union," Dodd and Berman
said in a statement. "Our agreement does just that."
The US agreement has to be approved by other members of the House-Senate
conference, but it claims wide congressional support and is expected to move
quickly toward final votes in the two chambers.
In the meantime, observers and diplomats say it is likely Iran will embark on
more retaliatory action to the imposition of sanctions. While the ban on the
activities of two UN nuclear inspectors poses few problems in practical terms,
since the IAEA employs more than 200 inspectors, repeated refusals to assist
their inquiries may yet spark a real crisis.