Iran seems unfazed by U.N. halt to nuclear aid programs
By George Jahn
VIENNA, Austria -- Iran on Thursday shrugged off the latest punitive U.N. action -- suspension of nearly two dozen nuclear aid programs -- and showed no signs that it was cowed by the possibility of even tougher penalties in the form of new Security Council sanctions.
The decision by the 35 board nations of the International Atomic Energy Agency to deprive Tehran of 22 technical aid projects was symbolically important. Only North Korea and Saddam Hussein's Iraq had been subject to such action previously.
Still, none of the programs directly applied to the Islamic republic's developing uranium enrichment program -- which Tehran refuses to mothball despite nearly three months of Security Council sanctions and the possibility that those punitive measures may be tightened.
Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, Iran's chief delegate to the IAEA, said as much after the board agreed to suspend the programs.
"None of these projects are related to enrichment," he said of the suspensions. "The enrichment program will continue as planned."
IAEA technical aid projects are meant to bolster the peaceful use of nuclear energy in medicine, agriculture, waste management, management training or power generation. The technical aid is provided to dozens of countries, most of them developing nations -- but none suspected of possibly trying to develop nuclear weapons, like Iran.
Enrichment, by contrast, has both peaceful and military applications. Iran says it wants to develop its enrichment program only to generate nuclear power, and enrichment is not prohibited under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
But Tehran's secretive nuclear ways -- it hid sensitive activities from the world for nearly two decades until revelations four years ago of a covert enrichment project -- led the Security Council to impose sanctions Dec. 23 because of fears that Iran's nuclear activities were a cover for a weapons program.
Labels: News update about Iran