Washington, March 5: The Iran vote at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been complicated by the nuclear deal between US President George W. Bush and prime minister Manmohan Singh, which was sealed on Thursday.
Iranian diplomats in Vienna are telling member states of the IAEA’s board of governors, which is convening on Monday, that the Indo-US nuclear deal is an example of double standards on non-proliferation and that, as such, they should not be party to any action against Iran.
“The US approach is a form of double standards. It signed a contract with a country that was not a member of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT),” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said in Tehran today. “That is objectionable. On the other hand, it approaches Iran in such a (threatening) way.”
As the governors gather in Vienna to hear a status report from IAEA’s director-general, Mohamed ElBaradei, on the Iranian nuclear programme and decide if and what to tell the UN Security Council about it, Iran’s argument is finding echoes across the world.
French President Jacques Chirac said in Riyadh today that France, Germany and Britain had assured Tehran during negotiations that “it can develop its nuclear capacity for civilian purposes”.
France’s position of non-proliferation has been far more consistent that that of the US. Just as Paris backed India after the 1998 nuclear tests, Chirac will support any legitimate demands by Iran under the NPT for pursuing a peaceful nuclear programme.
With India poised to gain access to civilian technology once the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) changes its rules on the lines of the Indo-US nuclear deal, there will be many aggrieved parties among the IAEA’s board of governors.
Developing countries, which want to tap civilian nuclear programmes and develop atomic power as a solution to their energy needs, have complained for decades that the world’s nuclear powers have denied them their rights under Article IV of NPT.
This article gives signatories to the treaty “the inalienable right'to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination”.
It also commits the five nuclear weapons states to “contributing alone or together with other states or international organisations to the further development of the applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”
The New York Times said in an editorial today that “the India deal is exactly the wrong message to send right now, just days before Washington and its European allies will be asking the IAEA to refer Iran’s case to the UN Security Council for further action. Iran’s hopes of preventing this depend on convincing the rest of the world that the West is guilty of a double standard on nuclear issues.
“Mr. Bush might as well have tied a pretty red bow around his India nuclear deal and mailed it as a gift to Tehran.”
Diplomats in Vienna said today that if Tehran senses that it will be punished with an unfavourable vote at the IAEA despite its arguments against double standards, it may agree to a last minute compromise with Russia, which has agreed to enrich uranium at Russian plants on Iran’s behalf to ensure that it is only for civilian use.
“I would not state that time is running out,” said Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, who is to shortly have talks here with the Americans on Iran. “Let us give them a chance.”
The Security Council is likely to take up the Iranian crisis in about a fortnight, depending on ElBaradei’s report to his board of governors on Monday.