Accessibility links

Iran Seeks Exemptions on Eve of IAEA Meeting

Iran is asking to be allowed to renege on a commitment to freeze all uranium-enrichment activities and be allowed to operate dozens of centrifuges, according to news reports. The news came out of a closed-door meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency - the U.N. nuclear watchdog - where diplomats are discussing Iran's compliance to international demands involving their nuclear program.

An IAEA board meeting Thursday will examine if Iran is agreeing to demands meant to reduce suspicions about its nuclear activities. Among them are calls for a suspension of all uranium-enrichment and related activities - something Iran agreed to earlier this month in a deal with European negotiators.

But Wednesday's developments may be a sign that the meeting of the IAEA board may be at the negotiating table longer than anticipated. And, it may delay more intensive negotiations next month on a package to give Iran firm guarantees on nuclear technology, security, and economic cooperation.

The Iranians told the IAEA that they want to operate about 24 of the centrifuges for research, according to news reports. It dismisses U.S. assertions that it wants to use the technology to make weapons, saying it is interested only in generating nuclear power.

But, Western diplomats say any exemptions would undermine the already frail confidence Iran is trying to build.

IAEA spokesman, Mark Gwozdecky, says the agency has only limited powers in Iran

"There is nowhere on earth where we have the powers that we had in Iraq," he said. " In Iraq we had special draconian powers granted us by the (UN) Security Council, a kind of special case. Iraq lost a war and in the ensuing settlement basically had to take what the Security Council demanded."

Mr. Gwozdecky says the IAEA has to conduct robust inspections without impediments.

The 35-nation IAEA board of governors is to hear a report Thursday by IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei about his assessment of Iran's progress. The IAEA board will decide whether to bring the Islamic Republic before the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.

At previous board meetings, the United States has pressed for an "automatic trigger" clause that would involve the Security Council should Iran renege on nuclear promises in the future.