Iran Will Lead Developing Nation Bloc at U.N. Nuclear Agency
(CNSNews.com) – Iran was handed another U.N. leadership position on Monday, when its ambassador in Vienna was appointed chairman of the group of developing nations interacting with U.N. agencies, including the nuclear watchdog.
For the year beginning January, Ali-Asghar Soltanieh will chair the “G77 plus China” group at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other Vienna-based U.N. organizations.
The “G77 plus China” group comprises 131 countries, or more than two-thirds of total U.N. membership.
As such it is an influential force at the IAEA, where it accounts for 18 of the 35 seats (51 percent) on the current board of governors and is frequently at odds with Western states – not least over Iran’s nuclear activities.
Tehran’s IRNA news agency quoted Soltanieh as saying Iran hoped to meet the expectations of the developing states bloc “neutrally and professionally.”
As CNSNews has reported, Iran holds a number of leadership posts on various U.N. bodies, despite efforts by the U.S. and its allies to isolate it over its suspect nuclear activities.
Signaling his priorities at the IAEA, Soltanieh on Friday took the Vienna-based agency to task for focusing on its ally, Syria, rather than on Israel.
A day earlier, IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano had told a meeting of the board of governors that Syria had not cooperated with the IAEA to resolve “outstanding issues” relating to its al-Kibar reactor site.
Israeli warplanes in September 2007 bombed the remote site where North Korea is suspected to have been helping the Syrians develop a clandestine nuclear capability.
Syria has denied the claims, but has yet to provide satisfactory answers to IAEA questions, including those about the presence of processed uranium particles found by inspectors at the bombed site and at a reactor in Damascus.
“The Zionist regime of Israel violated the U.N. Charter and international regulations and law by attacking Syria,” Soltanieh said on Friday.
“Those members of the [U.N.] Security Council that cry foul over Syria have turned a blind eye to the Israeli regime whose nuclear arsenal is the real threat against peace and security of the region and the world,” IRNA quoted him as saying.
Soltanieh’s leadership position comes at an awkward time for Amano, who earlier this week defended himself against allegations of pro-U.S. bias.
The claims arose from one of the leaked U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks and quoted by a British newspaper, in which Amano evidently told a U.S. diplomat shortly after being elected as director-general last year but before formally taking up the post that he agreed with the U.S. stance on Iran’s nuclear activities.
“Amano reminded [the] ambassador on several occasions that he would need to make concessions to the G-77 [the developing countries group], which correctly required him to be fair-minded and independent, but that he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program,” the leaked cable read.
Amano told reporters that his “professional conscience” was clear and that there was “nothing wrong” with his actions.
The IAEA governors’ board elected Amano, who is from Japan, in a June 2009 vote that pitted the U.S. and its allies against developing countries that favored a candidate from South Africa, a G77 member.
Amano succeeded Mohammed ElBaradei of Egypt, who shortly before relinquishing the post he held for 12 years claimed that the nuclear threat posed by Iran “has been hyped.”
Iran says that its nuclear program, which it hid from the international community for nearly two decades before an opposition group exposed it in 2002, is designed solely for peaceful energy-generation purposes. The U.S. and its allies believe it is a front for developing a nuclear weapons capability.
In Geneva on Monday Iran and six leading countries – the U.S., Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany – met for the first time in a year for discussions on the nuclear standoff and other issues.
U.S. and European diplomats have cautioned against high expectations from the two days of talks.