Vienna, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Iranian delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Ali Asghar Soltanieh, in an exclusive interview with Asharq al-Awsat, said that his country is obliged to raise levels of uranium enrichment to 20 percent, so that can meet the fuel needs of the Tehran Medical Research reactor. He claims that dialogue in this regard continues to stall, because of political movements and pressure from countries seeking hegemony over nuclear technology. He stressed that Iran would never submit, and that it will not stop its nuclear research and development. [According to Soltanieh] this [nuclear research and development] has been approved and acknowledged by the IAEA in its previous reports, and furthermore in the latest report submitted by its director, the day before yesterday, to the IAEA Board of Governors, proudly asserting that Iran had become a ‘milestone’ in the field of nuclear technology.
Asharq al-Awsat presented Ambassador Soltanieh with a number of questions to find out his opinion, and the opinion of his country, with regards to this report, which will be discussed by that IAEA Board of Trustees at its meetings, beginning from next Monday. The IAEA General Conference meeting remains to be held on the 20th of this month. The meeting is usually split by a sharp division between developing countries, supporting Iran’s right to develop and obtain nuclear technology, and industrialized western countries, refusing such a right for fear of Iran misusing their nuclear activities, for military purposes.
Soltanieh has described the report as positive in some aspects, which indicate Iranian cooperation in certain activities. Other aspects were described as negative, and he confirmed that it was a purely political maneuver for the report to send its findings to the Security Council. He added that the work of the agency has become immersed in political nuances, which are harmful to its professionalism, and its pure scientific and technical importance.
Responding to Asharq al-Awsat’s question about Iran’s insistence to continue uranium enrichment despite an [international] decision to impose sanctions, and despite accusations raised about its hidden military objectives, Soltanieh reiterated that enrichment was Iran’s legal right. He revealed that Iran is still waiting for the Vienna group (United States, Russia, France, in addition to the IAEA) to respond swift and decisively [to Iran’s enrichment proposal]. He stressed that political maneuvering, and attempts to apply pressure and conditions, were the reasons that have delayed the group’s response. He added that such behavior is also one of the main reasons that prompted Iran to enrich uranium, so that it does not become dependent on the wishes and desires [of others].
Commenting on the latest Russian allegations that the United States are hindering an agreement under which Iran can obtain the fuel it needs to secure Tehran’s nuclear reactor, which is necessary for Iran’s treatment of cancer patients, Soltanieh said that there was no doubt about this. He hoped that all parties understand the humanitarian needs which justify the further work of the reactor, especially considering that as time goes on, the reactor will need to intensify its activities. He noted that Iran had used Turkey and Brazil to provide fuel, in order [for the reactor] to achieve its results.
On the other hand, Soltanieh denied saying that his country was deliberately not cooperating with the IAEA. He drew attention to the facts stated in the report, that the agency did not say that Iran was not cooperating, rather that the Agency has asked for more cooperation. He pointed out that Iran is cooperating, in accordance with legally binding resolutions, just as it has provided signed security agreements between Iran and the Agency, and no more than that. He confirmed that the Agency has requested Iran to activate its Additional Protocol; however Iran will not cooperate in this regard whilst its nuclear file is being discussed at the Security Council in New York. He noted that the decision to send the Iranian nuclear file to New York prompted the Iranian Parliament to pass legislation, effectively ceasing cooperation with the IAEA, regarding Additional Protocols. He called upon Yukiya Amano, Director General of the IAEA, to acknowledge this situation, and furthermore, to understand it.
In response to a comment made by Asharq al-Awsat, suggesting that Iran permitting the IAEA to inspect their enrichment program was ‘the least they should do’, Soltanieh denied this, stating that there was no law forbidding Iran from conducting an enrichment program. Furthermore, he warned that Iran would need [to produce] nuclear fuel, especially as it has become skeptical about receiving fuel [from foreign sources], if it doesn’t produce it itself. He called for the need to recover from what he described as the failure of the United States and other Western countries, to adhere to agreements held with Iran since the eighties. He requested global security documents (guarantees) confirming that these states will not fail again, and that they will not back down, or shy away from their agreements, if a case such as that of Iran occurs again.
Regarding Yukiya Amano’s report, the justifications [for its accusations], and its complaints, relating to current Iranian preparations to begin construction of nuclear facilities on the 1st of March next year, Soltanieh said that his country has been forced to secure its nuclear facilities and to build more. This way, Iranian nuclear activities would not cease, if one of its facilities was hit by an aggressive attack. He pointed out that these [new] facilities will serve as strategic, logistic insurance if needed, in case a nuclear facility elsewhere was struck.
Soltanieh has described many of the Agency’s claims, urging Iran to provide more information, documents and designs, as ‘stupid’. He stressed that Iran has provided the Agency with all that is legally necessary, in accordance with security agreements, and that it would not provide anything else outside of those agreements. He also denied that the Director General’s report had referred to any military deviations in Iran’s nuclear activities. This denial came despite the report expressing the Agency’s concern that Iranian nuclear activities might have hidden military dimensions, including work to add nuclear warheads to missiles.