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(by Benny Avni, NYSun.com) UNITED NATIONS – When the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, lands in Tehran today, he will step into a new reality created by yesterday’s announcement by the mullahs that Iran has “joined the group” of nuclear nations.
The brazen boast in Tehran yesterday that Iran is now able to enrich uranium independently instantly changed the diplomatic landscape, but at the United Nations few diplomats expect any action from the Security Council before April 28, when Mr. ElBaradei is scheduled to report on Tehran’s compliance with the council’s demand to stop all enrichment activities.
“All eyes are now on ElBaradei,” an American official said yesterday. America is expected to argue that Iran is in noncompliance with last month’s unanimous statement by the Security Council, and ask for punitive measures.
“Iran is not paying attention to what the Security Council said,” American Ambassador John Bolton told The New York Sun. The Islamic Republic’s clerics “show why we feel a real sense of urgency,” he added. “Iran has to realize that it is clearly going down the wrong road.”
An IAEA official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the agency was not immediately able to verify yesterday’s announcement by Iran’s atomic organization chief, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, that Iranian scientists have succeeded in enriching uranium at Natanz to the level of 3.5%. IAEA inspectors are expected to look today at cameras and other devices installed in Iranian nuclear facilities.
According to the Associated Press, Mr. Aghazadeh said Iran has produced 110 tons of uranium gas – nearly twice the 60 tons of uranium hexaflouride, or UF-6 – that Iran admitted to producing last year. He added that Iran plans to expand its enrichment program to be able to use 3,000 centrifuges by the end of 2006.
“I am officially announcing that Iran has joined the group of those countries which have nuclear technology,” President Ahmadinejad said in a nationally televised speech. “This is the result of the Iranian nation’s resistance.”
He added, “At this historic moment, with the blessings of God almighty and the efforts made by our scientists, I declare here that the laboratory scale nuclear fuel cycle has been completed and young scientists produced enriched uranium needed to the degree for nuclear power plants Sunday.”
The Associated Press reported that an audience in the northwestern city of Mashhad, which included top military commanders and clerics, began chanting “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great,” thrusting their fists in the air.
The Israeli Web site Y-Net quoted an unnamed Israeli army intelligence officer as saying that the Iranian move is “a significant day in Iran’s nuclear program.”
“They have not crossed the technological threshold, but they are certainly at a point that could get them to nuclear weapon capability in the earliest date possible, in 2009,” the officials said. While the world “argues whether to stop Iran diplomatically or militarily, [Mr. Ahmadinejad] tells everyone that he is already at the next phase.”
Mr. Ahmadinejad stressed that Iran’s nuclear ambitions are for energy purposes only, and that the Islamic Republic “relies on the sublime beliefs that lie within the Iranian and Islamic culture. Our nation does not get its strength from nuclear arsenals.”
While America and Europe have expressed their doubts that the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions are purely peaceful, China and Russia have advocated a softening of diplomatic pressures. Both countries stressed in Security Council negotiations last month that under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran is permitted to enrich uranium to a non-weapon grade.
Nevertheless, China and Russia signed on to the March 29 statement by the 15-member council that called on Iran to re-establish “full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.” The statement also called on Mr. ElBaradei to report to the council within 30 days on Iran’s compliance with the council’s demands.
A White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said Iran’s clerics “continue to show that Iran is moving in the wrong direction.” This is “a regime that needs to be building confidence with the international community,” but it is moving in the opposite direction, he said.
Washington will talk “about the way forward with the other members of the Security Council and Germany,” Mr. McClellan added. Although not a current member of the council, Germany is leading the European diplomatic efforts on Iran, along with France and Britain.
America has kept the military option on the table, but President Bush has pushed for diplomatic efforts instead. Asked about reports over the weekend that there were advanced Pentagon plans for attacks against Iran’s nuclear facilities, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said yesterday, “It is certainly not useful to get into fantasyland.”
Reprinted here with permission from The New York Sun. Visit the website at NYSun.com.
1. Who is Mohamed ElBaradei? What is the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)? What is the purpose of the IAEA according to its website?
2. Who are the mullahs? What authority do they have in Iran? What announcement did the mullah’s make yesterday?
3. What had the U.N. Security Council required of Iran recently, as explained in paragraph 14?
4. What did Iranian President Ahmadinejad stress about Iran’s nuclear program? What information would lead you to believe that Mr. Ahmadinejad’s remarks are not true?
5. What two options does the world have for stopping Iran from building nuclear weapons? How effective has the U.N. been thus far in causing Iran to end its nuclear program?
6. An IAEA official said the agency was not immediately able to verify yesterday’s announcement that Iranian scientists have succeeded in enriching uranium. Does it matter if the scientists’ claim is true or not? Explain your answer.
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Iran’s 20 year secret nuclear program was discovered in 2002. Iran says its program is for fuel purposes only, but it has been working on uranium enrichment, which is used to make nuclear bombs. Under the NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty), countries are not allowed to make nuclear weapons. In September 2005, the U.S. attempted to get the UN’s IFEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to refer Iran to the UN Security Council with the hope that if Iran did not stop their work, the Security Council would impose sanctions on Iran to force them to comply with the NPT. The Security Council recently told Iran to stop all enrichment activities (used to make nuclear weapons).
Click here for a map of Iran.