Iran and Syria to escape reprimand of IAEA board

Iran and Syria to escape reprimand of IAEA board

Alleged suspect nuclear activities by Iran and Syria are high on the agenda when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board starts meeting Monday in Vienna, but the no action against them is expected for now, diplomats said.

As Western board member states are undecided over how much pressure to apply, and as diplomats' attention is focussed on unrest in Arab countries, the IAEA body is unlikely to take action before its next meeting in June, they said, dpa reported.

The IAEA recently received new information concerning possible military nuclear activities in Iran, it said in a report late last month, without giving details.

The report also highlighted previous allegations about seven Iranian research or development projects for a nuclear warhead that officials in Tehran have refused to explain. Iran says the intelligence is fabricated.

A Western diplomat said the new report was more precise than previous ones, but added that "it does not contain a new element, especially concerning possible military dimensions, that would justify a resolution."

In its Syria report, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said the country has not allowed additional inspections either of a suspected nuclear reactor that Israel bombed in 2007, or of three possibly related sites that his inspectors have not yet visited.

The IAEA is aware of intelligence information that one of the sites could have been set up to make reactor fuel, diplomats said.

However, Syria decided one week before the board meeting that it would allow a visit to a fourth location, a civilian chemical plant that produces uranium as a by-product.

While diplomats acknowledged that Syria's blocking undermines the IAEA's authority, they questioned what a resolution or a so-called special inspection would achieve at this point.

Syria might refuse such an inspection, the Western diplomat said. "And what does the agency do then?"

Another diplomat said it was difficult to take action on Syria also because of its complex connection with Middle Eastern politics, referring to the tendency of developing countries on the board to support Israel's perceived enemies.

Besides these questions of tactics, diplomats said their capitals are not focussed on these two nuclear issues right now, but rather on the political upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa.

A European diplomat said raising diplomatic pressure at the IAEA would be counterproductive now.

"It would not be good to pour oil into the fire, because the region is already bubbling," he said.

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