By Fredrik Dahl
Iran has sharply criticized the U.N. nuclear watchdog over “baseless allegations” about its atomic activity, a document showed before talks between the two sides on Friday to discuss a stalled inquiry into suspected bomb research by Tehran.
The uncompromising language in the paper, and the fact that Iran asked the U.N. agency to make it public, may disappoint those hoping for a softening of the Islamic state’s nuclear stance under new President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate.
Iran’s new government said on Wednesday it wanted to “jump-start” separate talks with six world powers on a diplomatic solution to a decade-long dispute over its uranium enrichment program and hoped for a deal in three to six months.
But in a 20-page “explanatory note” posted on the website of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Thursday, Iran’s mission to the IAEA detailed many objections to its latest report on Tehran’s nuclear program, issued last month.
“The claims and baseless allegations against the Islamic Republic of Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities … are unprofessional, unfair, illegal and politicized,” it said.
It was an apparent reference to the IAEA’s concerns, spelled out in a series of quarterly reports, about what it calls the possible military dimensions to Iranian nuclear activities.
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano had “relied on some forged, fabricated and false information provided by Western intelligence services and known sources hostile to Iran”, the Iranian note, dated September 12, said.
Iran has aired similar views before.
The document appeared on the IAEA website (here) as Iran’s foreign minister was due to meet his big power counterparts in New York to discuss Western suspicions that Iran may be seeking to develop nuclear weapons capability. Iran denies this.
In Vienna on Friday, officials from the IAEA and Iran will hold their first talks since Rouhani took office in August, in a new attempt by the U.N. agency to secure Iranian cooperation with its inquiry into suspected activities applicable to the development of nuclear weapons.
Separately from big power diplomacy to head off a Middle East war over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the IAEA has held 10 rounds of talks with Tehran since early 2012 to try to gain access to sites, officials and documents for its investigation.
The talks have so far been fruitless but Western states see Friday’s meeting in Vienna as a litmus test of any substantive Iranian shift from its intransigence under Rouhani’s hardline conservative predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
However, some diplomats and analysts cautioned against expecting a significant breakthrough, partly because the Iranian chief negotiator had changed since the last talks in May. But they said another meeting could be scheduled soon.
“My expectation is that it will be more of a getting-to-know-you type of exercise,” nuclear expert Shannon Kile of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said.
Iran denies Western allegations of a nuclear weapons agenda, saying its aim is to generate electricity. But its refusal to curb sensitive nuclear work and its lack of openness with IAEA inspectors have drawn increasingly tough Western sanctions.
In late 2011, the IAEA published a report with a trove of intelligence indicating past research in Iran which could be relevant for nuclear weapons, some of which might still be continuing. Iran dismissed the findings as baseless or forged.
So far, diplomats say, there are no signs that the IAEA will any time soon be granted the access it has requested, for example to the Parchin military base where it suspects that Iran carried out nuclear-related explosives tests a decade ago.
“We have yet to see any indication that the Iranian side is prepared to turn their rhetoric into substance,” one envoy said.