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World

Iran's defiance forges rare unity among group of 5+1

Six world powers call on Iran to resolve concerns about its intentions for its nuclear programme. The joint statement came after their talks with the Islamic republic in Turkey in January failed to make progress.

A nuclear symbol superimposed over an Iranian flag

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only

Six world powers presented a rare united front at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna on Wednesday.

In a joint statement, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the US, Britain, France, Russia and China) plus Germany, called on Tehran to "fully cooperate with the Agency," in order to "exclude the existence of possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme."

This was the first time in two years that the four Western powers were able to convince Russia and China to sign on to a joint position on Iran's controversial nuclear program.

Growing frustration

The statement appeared to reflect increasing frustration with Tehran. Two days of talks in Istanbul in January saw the so-called five plus one group propose a series of practical steps to build confidence that Iran was not trying to build a nuclear weapon. But Tehran rejected them outright.

Perhaps more importantly though, was the news revealed on Monday by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano that the Agency had received new information about possible military aspects of Iran's nuclear program.

The director general of the International Atomic Energy Yukiya Amano

Amano was vague about the "new information" received

"I cannot specifically say up until when. But we can say there is some information that indicates the continuance of activities beyond 2004," Amano said. "But as usual I must say we are not saying Iran has a nuclear program – we are saying we have concerns and we want to clarify the matter," he said.

Although neither Amano nor anyone else at the IAEA is willing to reveal just what new information they have obtained on Iran, it has clearly strengthened suspicions among diplomats that Tehran is covering up a nuclear weapons programme.

US stance strengthened

Among the six powers, Washington has traditionally expressed the most suspicion about Iran's nuclear activities.

On Wednesday, the current US ambassador to the IAEA Glyn Davies said that Iran was "pursuing the scientific, technical and industrial capacity to produce nuclear weapons."

Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh

Iran's ambassador says he's ready for talks

The United Nations Security Council has passed four sets of sanctions against Tehran over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment activities. The latest was passed in June, 2010. Iran has described these sanctions as illegal, saying it has the right under international treaties to make fuel for reactors to generate electricity.

It has consistently claimed that its nuclear programme is meant strictly for peaceful purposes. At the same time, it has refused schemes meant to ally suspicions about its intentions, in which it would receive nuclear fuel from abroad in exchange for giving up its own enrichment programme.

Open door policy

In Wednesday's joint statement, the six powers stressed that the door remained open to further talks with Iran, whose ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh echoed that same sentiment.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to start negotiations as soon as the group of five plus one is ready," he said.

But with no new meetings scheduled, it's not clear when anyone will be walking through that door.

Author: Kerry Skyring / pfd
Editor: Rob Turner

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