It was another day of bullhorn diplomacy by Iran's top nuclear officials, who appear to be struggling to halt momentum for a new round of international sanctions. The head of Iran's atomic energy agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, began the day by calling IAEA chief Yukiya Amano "biased."
Salehi added that Iran hopes that Amano will change his approach.
The remarks coincide with a meeting of the IAEA board in Vienna, which began Monday, in which Amano complained that Tehran "has not provided the agency with the necessary cooperation," and that he could "not confirm that all nuclear material in Iran is [being used] in peaceful activities."
Amano's report to the IAEA board also stressed that Tehran may be working to develop a nuclear warhead, and its recent decision to enrich uranium to the 20-percent level could, in theory, give it the material needed to produce an atomic bomb.
Iran has repeatedly insisted that its nuclear program is intended for peaceful civilian purposes, but the West suspects it is covertly working to produce nuclear weapons.
Iran's Ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asgar Soltaniyah, added his voice to the diplomatic debate Tuesday, insisting Iran has been cooperating in good faith with the IAEA.
"We have fully cooperated in the context of the comprehensive safeguards," he said. "Mr. Amano not only in his opening statement today but also in the press conference he also confirmed that there has been full cooperation by Iran, and the [IAEA] has been able to continue its verification activities in Iran for the declared nuclear material as we said, but [you should not] expect us to go beyond our legal obligations."
Soltaniyah said Tehran does not consider U.N. Security Council resolutions over its nuclear program to be "legitimate," and that it would not conform to them.
Iran missed an international deadline at the end of January to accept a U.N. draft nuclear deal to exchange close to 70% of it stockpile of low-grade uranium for more highly enriched uranium from France and Russia. It has been making contradictory statements about the deal for weeks.
Royal Military College of Canada political science teacher Houchang Hassan-yari says Iranian officials are trying to create confusion in order to buy time:
"Salehi, sometimes Soltaniyeh, Larijani, Ahmadinejad, Muttaqi and others say they are ready to negotiate, they are ready to transfer their enriched uranium to Russia and then they refuse to do it," he noted. "So, I think the Iranian regime uses different personalities inside the system, using different language for the same purpose. The purpose is buying time not to fulfill their responsibility by answering very clearly the resolutions passed by the IAEA board of governors, but also by the U.N. Security Council. So, they were successful to this point. Nobody is talking about the resolutions passed by the U.N. Security Council and they are forgotten. So, the Iranians are very, very good in creating a new quasi-crisis in order to force the other side to forget the previous step."
Hassan-yari notes the only point at which he thinks the Iranian regime will conform to the demands of the United Nations is when it feels its existence is threatened.