TEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- A meeting of the IAEA’s technical cooperation committee got underway Monday in Vienna, with officials and diplomats saying that several members of the UN nuclear watchdog are pressing for putting technical assistance to Iran on ice.
Iran, a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has requested help with the heavy water research reactor the country is currently constructing at Arak.
The Unites States claims that Iran could use the 40 megawatt reactor for producing plutonium for nuclear weapons.
But diplomats close to the IAEA noted that the international nuclear watchdog had no legal basis for refusing Iran’s requests.
This view was reinforced by Ana Maria Cetto, IAEA Deputy Director General for Technical Cooperation.
Cetto told the committee it was the judgment of the IAEA Secretariat that the project was in conformity with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions asking for suspension of enrichment and reprocessing related activities as it did not contribute to those activities.
The Secretariat has listened carefully to all questions and concerns raised in this regard” and would ensure that during implementation of the project all requirements, including the Security Council resolutions would be conformed with.
IAEA officials said that while not all projects were put under such severe scrutiny, special rules applied to Iran and Iraq because of UN Security Council requirements.
US Ambassador to the IAEA Gregory Schulte said in a speech last week that Iran must not be allowed assistance for the Arak project as it was just a smokescreen for Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.
The US enjoys some support from the European Union and even some members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), diplomat sources said.
Currently a compromise solution which does not reject the request outright, but defers discussion to a later point is being negotiated among the delegates, who hoped to reach consensus by late Monday afternoon.
Iran asked the IAEA for expert help to ensure radiation safety at the research reactor, a request diplomat sources say would be very difficult for the agency to reject.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, said that there was no technical, legal or financial basis for rejecting the Arak project.
I don’t see any reason for not adopting it,” he told reporters during a meeting break. On the contrary, technical support for Arak would greatly increase the agency’s presence on the ground and was therefore a bigger step for maximum transparency,” Soltanieh said.
He said Iran would be very disappointed” if the project did not receive the go-ahead by the board and this great injustice” would further alienate the Iranian people.
Apart from the controversial Arak project, the committee is looking at around 700 projects for technical assistance for the next two years, all of them non-controversial.
While the Arak issue has captured much of the attention, projects dealing with nuclear technology are a minority within the IAEA’s technical cooperation work.
Cetto stressed in her statement that largest proportion of projects were human health-related, followed by agriculture issues. Iran also applied for the agency’s help for other projects.
The three-day meeting precedes the IAEA’s regular board of governors meeting starting on November 23.