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IAEA Board Discusses Iran's Nuclear Program


The International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-member board has begun talks focused on controversial nuclear activities in Iran and Syria, among other subjects. This week's meeting in Vienna comes as support grows among Western nations for tougher U.N. sanctions against Iran.

The IAEA's five-day board meeting is taking place amid claims that Iran has been trying to develop a nuclear warhead, missile re-entry vehicles and other weapons.

Those concerns were highlighted by outgoing Director General Mohamed el Baradei in remarks to the board - even as he noted some progress by Tehran in a few areas.

"On all other issues, however, relevant to Iran's nuclear program there is a stalemate. Iran has not suspended its enrichment activities nor its work on a heavy water related project required by the [UN] Security Council," Baradei said.

He also criticized Iran for failing to cooperate when it came to answering allegations about the possible military dimensions of its nuclear activities.

But Baradei also denounced as baseless recent press reports suggesting the IAEA had failed to publish key findings about Iran's alleged weaponization program to its members.

Analyst Tomas Valasek says support for tougher sanctions is growing in Europe, before an upcoming U.N. Security Council meeting in New York.

"What has happened is that ... Germany, France and Britain as well as Israel have viewed the Obama administration's decision to engage Iran as basically the last change to [resolve] the standoff by peaceful means without further escalating the sanctions," Valasek said.

But Security Council members Russia and China have traditionally balked at tougher sanctions.

Tehran says its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes and its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, recently said he is willing to hold talks with world powers.

But Valasek, who is director for foreign and defense policy at the Center for European Reform in London, says Mr. Ahmedinejad's remarks do not amount to much.

"Just about the only thing he has said - besides saying he is willing to discuss this with the international community - is that he will not discuss Iran's enrichment, which is precisely what the West needs to discuss. So basically he is saying he is willing to talk, but he is not willing to budge from his position. So I suspect this will be viewed, certainly in Europe and in the United States, as too little, too late," Valasek said.

The IAEA board will also be discussing Syria's alleged nuclear activities. Damascus has denied claims that it had nearly completed a nuclear reactor that was destroyed by Israeli jets in 2007.

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