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IRAN: Nuclear duel heats up over IAEA report

June 1, 2008 |  9:48 am

If the latest International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran's nuclear program was meant to serve as a wake-up call and warning to Tehran to back away from its nuclear ambitions, it sure didn't seem to work very well.

BaradeiThe full IAEA report (136 KB PDF file) was distributed to the board of the United Nations nuclear inspection watchdog and promptly leaked Monday to reporters, and it was denounced by Iranian officials throughout the week.

The report contained tantalizing clues about the contents of a smuggled laptop computer allegedly containing evidence of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons program, which will be discussed this week in Vienna. 

Reaction to the report in Iran has been negative if not hostile. Even the relative liberals within Iran's circle of power have cried foul. The reformist newspaper Etemad Melli wrote in Thursday's editions that Iran shouldn't abide by IAEA suggestions that Iran hand over any document requested.

"This is not legally enforceable and no end can be imagined for it," it said.

Today, foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini spent 15 minutes of his half-hour weekly press briefing to deliver a speech about the weak and strong points of the recent IAEA report.

He said:

The recent report shows largely that Iran has not had any non-peaceful nuclear acitivities. However under the pressure of one or two Western countries (U.S. and UK or France, likely), the report has provided some stuff for the pretext-seeking countries. We should bear in mind that not a single negative point has been documented in the report against Iran's peaceful nuclear activities, but those one or two countries are seeking a pretext.

The documents suggest Iran was working on missile designs, radioactive material experiments and explosives testing consistent with a nuclear weapons program until at least 2003. Documents, the IAEA report said, "remain a matter of serious concern."

The IAEA admits that Western spy agencies have barred it from actually showing the documents to Iran, which Tehran says kind of makes it tough for them to respond to them. Iran has dismissed them as forgeries.

Iran's already suffered three rounds of relatively mild economic sanctions over its nuclear program. The U.N. Security Council is making noises like it's ready for number four. Iran has argued that the IAEA and not the Security Council should be dealing with its nuclear program. Now that the relatively harsh report is out, Iran is crying foul about the IAEA, as well.

Here's Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, chairman of two powerful clerical committees in Iran, at Friday prayers:

Though we have answered all their questions and IAEA admitted we have responded, they claim to have some more questions, which is an indication that is a new trap. If the IAEA continues the current policy, it will be discredited.

Ali Larijani, Iran's new speaker of parliament, began his post on Wednesday by denouncing the IAEA report before lawmakers.

Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

Photo: International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei, left, chats with the chairman of the board of governors, Milenko Skoknic, prior to a meeting at the agency's headquarters in Vienna. Credit: AFP

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