The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 68/No. 36           October 5, 2004  
Iran protests UN agency
demand to halt uranium enrichment
Raising pressure, IAEA sets Nov. 25 deadline
(front page)
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The government of Iran said September 21 it would not heed a call by the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to stop uranium enrichment.

Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the head of Tehran’s Atomic Energy Organization, told reporters in Vienna that day that Iran had begun converting 37 tons of raw “yellowcake” uranium to process it for use in nuclear centrifuges—the machines that enrich uranium, a process necessary to produce fuel for the nuclear reactors that Tehran is developing to help meet the country’s growing electricity generation needs.

“What was decided in the board of governors is unjust for a nation,” Aghazadeh said, referring to a resolution the IAEA’s board had just passed.

The IAEA “considers it necessary,” the resolution that was adopted unanimously September 18 says, “that Iran immediately suspend all enrichment-related activities, including the manufacture or import of centrifuge components, the assembly and testing of centrifuges, and the production of feed material” (emphasis in the original).

The UN agency also called on the government of Iran “to reconsider its decision to start construction of a research reactor.”

The resolution said that the agency will bring back a report on whether Tehran has complied with these demands to the November 25 meeting of the IAEA’s board of governors. At that meeting the board “will decide whether or not further steps are appropriate,” it said.

Washington and the main powers in the European Union—London, Paris, and Berlin—cosponsored the resolution.

U.S. officials stated that the road is now open for the IAEA to refer Tehran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions if the Iranian government does not comply with the UN atomic agency’s demands. “The issue of Security Council referral will be up at the November board meeting and everyone knows it,” said John Bolton, undersecretary of state for nonproliferation affairs, speaking from Washington. “We’re quite satisfied with that.”

Washington has charged that Iran has been secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons, allegedly under the cover of atomic energy generation, and has violated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The NPT provides cover for the imperialist powers in Washington, London, and Paris, as well as Moscow and Beijing, to have nuclear weapons but bars other nations from acquiring them. It subjects other governments, in semicolonial countries in particular, to a range of other requirements, including regular reports and inspections of their nuclear research and energy facilities.

The IAEA resolution says it “deeply regrets” Iran’s decision to reverse its suspension of enrichment of uranium. It stresses that the continued suspension of uranium enrichment is “necessary to promote confidence” in the peaceful nature of Iranian nuclear programs. “It is most important that Iran suspends all activities regarding enrichment,” said German foreign minister Joschka Fischer, a leader of the Green Party and member of the Social Democratic-Green coalition government in Berlin, according to Reuters.

Washington had pressed for an October 31 deadline and for automatic referral to the Security Council—known as a trigger—if Iran is found to be in violation of the NPT.

Washington also sought to make the suspension of enrichment of uranium by Tehran obligatory by pressing to remove language in the resolution recognizing the right of countries to pursue the development of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. According to Reuters, Washington’s representatives at the negotiations retreated from that position to win the backing of several governments, including those in Brazil and South Africa, which have uranium enrichment programs of their own. South Africa’s representative to the IAEA, Abdul Samad Minty, who heads that country’s Council for the Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction said, “If Iran decides at some point they do not want to suspend their program any more, they have that right,” reported Reuters.

Iran’s chief negotiator with the IAEA, Hassan Rowhani, said “any resolution that seeks to bind us to suspension (of uranium enrichment) is unacceptable,” reported the Islamic Republic News Agency. Rowhani, who is also secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, added that the aim of the suspension announced last year “was to build trust, but the situation today is different from last year since there is no ambiguity regarding our peaceful nuclear activities now.”

According to the Associated Press, Rowhani said that Tehran would continue to suspend actual enrichment of uranium but that production, assembly, and testing of centrifuges used in the enrichment process would continue. A Reuters dispatch said that the Iranian parliament has called on the government to ignore the IAEA resolution.

Rowhani said that if Iran is referred to the Security Council it might end the inspections of its nuclear facilities and consider withdrawing from the NPT altogether. “If one day they refer Iran’s nuclear dossier to the UN Security Council, that day…Iran will stop implementing the additional protocol and will limit its cooperation with the IAEA,” Rowhani said.

Aghazadeh told reporters September 21 that Tehran is not seriously concerned about the possibility of economic sanctions the UN Security Council may impose, noting that Iran has lived with sanctions by Washington for 25 years.

Last October, under intense pressure from Paris, Berlin, London, and Moscow, the Iranian government announced it would agree to demands of the IAEA to allow surprise inspections of its nuclear facilities and sign on to the “additional protocol” to the NPT. As a gesture of good will, the Iranian government also said it would voluntarily halt enrichment of uranium. In exchange, the three EU governments that led the negotiations promised to ease Tehran’s access to modern technology and to bloc Washington’s efforts to refer Iran’s case to the Security Council. In pressuring Tehran to agree to the unannounced inspections, European Union governments—particularly Paris and Berlin, which were not willing to take Washington’s lead on the assault on Iraq—hoped to keep the U.S. rulers at bay. They differ with Washington on how best to advance their imperialist interests in the region vis-à-vis Iran.

This time, however, the main imperialist powers across the Atlantic adopted a much more common approach.

In June Tehran announced that it would resume production and assembly of centrifuges because the three EU governments had failed to keep their promise to have the IAEA investigation closed.

The ability to enrich uranium is essential in the development of nuclear power, as well as in the production of weapons. After extraction from the ground, the element is milled into yellowcake and then converted to uranium hexafluoride, a gas, before being enriched and turned into nuclear fuel for use in reactors. The uranium waste is then stored or reprocessed. This whole process is known as the nuclear fuel cycle. In order not to be dependent on imperialist powers as a fuel source for the country’s nuclear power plants, Tehran has said that it needs to have the capacity to enrich uranium.

Washington has chided Iran that given the country’s vast oil reserves the pursuit of nuclear technology can only mean Tehran wants to build a nuclear bomb. Tehran counters that it needs to produce 7,000 megawatts of electricity by 2021 through nuclear power plants in order to meet the growing energy demands of a country of 65 million and to spur economic and industrial development.

Washington’s accusations notwithstanding, Iran’s intention to develop its nuclear resources has been no secret over the years. Iran’s nuclear power program began in the 1960s, under the regime of the U.S.-backed shah. Work on the Bushehr nuclear power project—an object of imperialist scrutiny today—was begun in 1974 by the German company Siemens. The reactors were viewed as necessary for industrialization of the country. The project was left unfinished after the 1979 revolution that overthrew the shah. Work at Bushehr was resumed with Russian aid in the 1990s.  
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