VIENNA (AP) — The U.S. and its Western allies bluntly accused Iran on Friday of deceiving the world and declared it could no longer dismiss evidence it is working secretly on making nuclear arms.
The unusually tough accusations were bound to raise international tensions over Iran's nuclear program — even though the Western statements emphasized that the preferred solution was through diplomacy.
Statements delivered to the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board by the United States, and on behalf of Germany, Britain and France, contained no mention of military action — an option that has not been discounted by either Israel or the U.S. if Tehran refuses to stop activities that can be used for nuclear weapons.
Still, they pulled no punches, drawing heavily on a recent IAEA report based on intelligence from more than 10 nations that concluded that some alleged clandestine activities by the Islamic Republic could not be used for any other purpose than making nuclear arms.
"It is no longer within the bounds of credulity to claim that Iran's nuclear activities are solely peaceful," said Glyn Davies, the chief U.S. delegate to the IAEA, adding: "There is little doubt that Iran ... at the very least, wants to position itself for a nuclear weapons capability."
For the three European nations, German chief delegate Ruediger Luedeking said Iranian actions, ..."deepened disbelief in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program."
With the Nov. 8 report adding substantial weight to previous alleged evidence of Iranian nuclear weapons research and development, dismissing such suspicions "as false and fabricated — as Iran has done in the past — is neither plausible nor believable," Luedeking added.
Both he and Davies urged delegates to the closed meeting to back a proposed resolution based on the report urging Iran to end more than three years of stonewalling of IAEA attempts to probe the allegations, and to heed U.N. Security Council demands to stop other activities that could be used to make nuclear arms. Their comments were made available to reporters.
In opening words to the meeting, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano voiced similar concerns "regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program," saying such work may extend into the present. He added his agency finds the information leading to such suspicions to be generally credible.
"The information indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device," he said. "It also indicates that, prior to the end of 2003, these activities took place under a structured program, and that some activities may still be ongoing."
The resolution, to be taken up later Friday, is milder than the West had hoped for — but it has the support of Russia and China, which Iran traditionally counts on to counter Western pressure.
A senior diplomat at the meeting told The Associated Press that Tehran was particularly unhappy with the success of the West's tactical move — watering down the language of the resolution in exchange for support from Moscow and Beijing.
Iran is under four sets of U.N. Security Council resolutions for refusing to freeze uranium enrichment — which can make both nuclear fuel and fissile weapons material — and tensions have been exacerbated by what the IAEA says is growing evidence of hidden nuclear weapons work.
It denies any interest in such weapons, says it is being targeted unfairly by the U.S. and its allies and that Amano is working for the Americans since he has published his report.
In a letter made available to reporters Friday, chief Iranian delegate Ali Asghar Soltanieh accused Amano of security leaks that expose his country's scientists and their families to the threat of assassination by the U.S. and Israel.
Such leaks, said Soltanieh have made Iranian scientists "the targets for assassination by ... (the) Israeli regime and United State(s) of America intelligence services." He said Amano is to blame for any threat "against the lives of my fellow citizens."