Friday, November 30, 2012

Senate Tightens Iran Sanctions

The U.S. Senate by a vote of 94-0 approved new sanctions on Iran’s energy, port, shipping and shipbuilding sectors. The new package of sanctions was approved as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. It builds on existing U.S. sanctions and provides additional tools to impede the progress of Iran’s nuclear program.

The legislation also attempts to close a loophole that has allowed some purchasers of Iranian oil and natural gas to use gold and other precious metals to pay for petroleum products. 

Military Strike May Lead to Withdrawal from NPT - Iran Official

Iran’s Ambassador to IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh said in Vienna today that any attack on the country’s nuclear facilities may lead it to withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a pact aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear arms.  (Reuters, 30 November)

If attacked, “there is a possibility that the (Iranian) parliament forces the government to stop the (U.N. nuclear) agency inspections or even in the worse scenario withdraw from the NPT,” Soltanieh said. Military strikes would not stop Iran from enriching uranium, he added.

“Iran is master of enrichment technology ... it can easily replace the damaged facilities,” Soltanieh said.
But, the Iranian ambassador said in a long statement in English to IAEA Board of Governors that Iran is “well prepared to find a negotiated face-saving solution and a breakthrough from the existing stalemate.” (Reuters)
Photo credit: Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA (EPA/Reuters, Roland Schlager)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Palestine: Observer State at U.N.

The U.N. General Assembly today voted overwhelmingly to recognize Palestine as an observer state. 138 countries voted yes, 9 voted no, and 41 abstained.

“The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine,” said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
A number of European countries, among them France, Spain and Switzerland — voted in favor of Palestine. Israel and the U.S. voted against the resolution, and Britain and Germany were among the countries that abstained.

U.S. Gives Iran until March to Cooperate with IAEA

The United States set a March deadline today for Iran to start cooperating with IAEA’s investigation over its suspected nuclear weaponization program at Parchin. The U.S. warned that the Parchin issue may otherwise be referred to the UN Security Council.

“If by March Iran has not begun substantive cooperation with the IAEA, the United States will work with other board members to pursue appropriate board action, and would urge the board to consider reporting this lack of progress to the U.N. Security Council,” said Robert Wood, U.S. ambassador to IAEA. (Reuters, 29 November)

In 2006, IAEA’s Board of Governors referred Iran to UNSC over its nuclear program. As a result, four rounds of sanctions were imposed on Iran by UNSC. The current issue is IAEA’s suspicion that Iran has conducted work related to nuclear weapon production at Parchin military base near Tehran. The IAEA also says that recent satellite photos show that the Iranians are cleaning up the disputed site in an apparent attempt to cover up previous work on weaponization program before IAEA inspectors are allowed to enter the facilities.

Iran denies both charges and maintains that it is not involved in any work related to the production of the bomb. Iran also says that its refusal to let inspectors into Parchin was on technical grounds and it is not hiding anything from the agency's inspectors. Iran, however, has not explained the earth moving activates at Parchin that has been captured by satellites. 

IAEA Sees No Progress on Iran Impasse

The IAEA Director Yukiya Amano said today that the UN nuclear agency has made no progress in a yearlong push to find out if Iran worked on developing a nuclear weapon at the suspected Parchin site. Amano urged Iran to allow UN inspectors to resume their inquiry after several meetings between Iran and the agency since January failed to achieve a breakthrough. The two sides are scheduled to meet again in mid-December.

“Now is the time for all of us to work with a sense of urgency and seize the opportunity for a diplomatic solution,” Amano told its 35-nation governing board. “I am unable to report any progress on clarifying the issues relating to possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program,” he added. (Reuters, 29 November)

Amano expressed concern that suspected cleanup work at at Parchin would seriously undermine the agency's investigation, if and when it was allowed to visit the sprawling facility.

“Satellite imagery shows that extensive activities, including the removal and replacement of considerable quantities of earth, have taken place at this location,” Amano said.